Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Saturday announced “temporary limits” on the number of tweets users can read, an announcement that comes amid reports of users having trouble accessing the site.
Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion last October and took the company private, said in a tweet “to address extreme levels of data scraping and system manipulation, we have implemented the following temporary limits.”
Verified accounts “are limited to reading 6,000 posts/day,” while unverified accounts were limited to 600 per day, Musk’s tweet said. New and unconfirmed counts will have an even lower limit of 300, he said.
It was unclear how the site calculated what counts as a read tweet. USA TODAY reached out to Twitter for clarification and received an automated message about a poop emoji, which is standard for the company.
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#TwitterDown was trending Saturday as users apparently ran into the newly set limits by Musk. The website downdetector.com showed thousands of users reporting problems accessing Twitter on Saturday afternoon.
Users reported seeing error messages saying “speed limit exceeded” and “Can’t retrieve tweets” error messages while scrolling the page.
A reporter from USA TODAY was served several “rate limit exceeded” errors in the Twitter app on Saturday after scrolling for a few minutes. It was not immediately clear whether this was a result of the temporary restrictions or another bug with the app.
The new viewing restrictions come a day after Musk said he was taking a “temporary emergency measure” to prevent people not logged into a Twitter account from seeing some tweets. He said the action was also to combat data scraping.
“This will be unlocked soon,” Musk said Friday.
Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives questioned the strategy. “It changes the rules of the game without warning and not a good look for the Twitter platform,” he told USA TODAY in an email exchange. “Frustration building among users.”
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Twitter’s ad business has struggled since Musk took over. He has overseen mass resignations, loosened content moderation and changed the blue check verification system.
In May, he hired NBCUniversal head of ad sales Linda Yaccarino to succeed him as Twitter’s CEO; Yaccarino will primarily focus on Twitter’s business while Musk focuses on product design and new technology. At the time, he said she would start in six weeks, which would coincide with late June, early July.
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Twitter users who hadn’t reached the social network’s reading limits yet had some opinions. “Sometimes when I tended bar we’d flip the lights on and off and play annoying music to chase the last stragglers out at closing time,” author and historian Kevin Kruse tweeted. “Twitter feels like this now.”
Musk’s rationale for imposing the limits did not hold water with Slava Melandovich, co-founder and CEO of tech job search company JOBITT.com.
“While I understand the need to tackle the problem of data scraping and system manipulation, this approach risks inadvertently penalizing real users and limiting their access to information. It may be more effective to invest in developing robust security measures that can distinguish between human behavior and bot activities,” he tweeted. “Also, more transparency around the thresholds that trigger these restrictions would be appreciated. This would allow users to better manage their activities without being constrained by daily post limits.”
Soon after the limits were announced, another hashtag started trending: #RIPTwitter.
Contributors: Jeanine Santucci, Austin Bogues, Jessica Guynn and Kate Perez.