- Elon Musk said Twitter users will have to temporarily sign in to view tweets to stop AI data scraping.
- Musk also said Twitter would place limits on the number of tweets people can read per day.
- He said “drastic and immediate action” was needed to curb the “extreme levels” of scraping.
Elon Musk said Twitter had to take “drastic and immediate” action to restrict access to tweets because AI companies were stealing its data.
The Twitter CEO said Friday that the company would require users to sign in to view tweets, and would not allow tweet previews when links were shared with others. Then, on Saturday, Musk announced that Twitter will temporarily limit how many tweets users can read per day.
Musk said both changes were meant to address “data scraping and system manipulation.”
Hundreds of companies were “scraping Twitter data extremely aggressively,” Musk said on Friday, adding that social media companies without an authentication process were at risk of becoming “bot-strewn hellscapes.”
Verified users, which are largely accounts subscribed to Musk’s troubled Twitter Blue program, will be able to read 6,000 posts per day, while unverified and newly created unverified accounts will be able to see just 600 and 300 posts per day, respectively, Musk said on Twitter.
—Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 1, 2023
It’s unclear how Twitter will count a post as read, whether it will mean just scrolling past a tweet, or actually interacting with the tweet in some way. However, it appears that the change could be what caused thousands of users to have problems seeing new tweets on their feeds Saturday morning.
The decision was met with confusion and seemingly, new motivation to seek out other platforms, as Elon, BlueSky, Jack Dorsey, Tumblr, Twitter Blue, Mastodon, and Hive were all trending Saturday afternoon.
Musk tweeted Friday that the requirement to sign in would be “unlocked shortly” and that it was vital to take swift action to prevent the data scraping. He said Twitter had to fire up backup servers to cope with increased traffic on the site.
“It is rather galling to have to bring large numbers of servers online on an emergency basis just to facilitate some AI startup’s outrageous valuation,” he said.
The billionaire called for other solutions after Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney tweeted that Twitter was “account walled” and that browsing the site “feels horrible.”
Musk replied by saying that the data scraping was affecting users’ experience. “What should we do to stop that? I’m open to ideas,” he asked.
Sweeney suggested banning scraping in Twitter’s terms of service, protecting itself with infosec engineering, and taking legal action against companies commercially abusing the site on a large scale.
Musk responded and said: “1. Scraping is already disallowed by T&C. 2. The scraping orgs dgaf & mask their IPs through proxy servers or through orgs that appear legit. For example, a recent massive scraping operation originating from Oracle IP addresses was just using their servers as a laundromat. 3. We absolutely will take legal action against those who stole our data & look forward seeing them in court, which is (optimistically) 2 to 3 years from now.”
The SpaceX founder shut down OpenAI’s access to Twitter in December because he reportedly felt the company wasn’t paying enough for it to license the platform’s data, per The New York Times. OpenAI was paying about $2 million a year to scrape Twitter’s data to help build its AI chatbot, according to the report.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
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