Twitter has reversed course on its decision to shut off free access to its API, following widespread criticism from government and public service organisations.
The company has made numerous controversial decisions under Elon Musk’s leadership, but reducing users’ access to critical information was seen as dangerous and self-harming to the platform’s usefulness.
However, Twitter says it will now allow verified government and publicly-owned services to use the API for free, as long as they are using it for “critical purposes” such as emergency notifications, transportation updates, and weather alerts.
Twitter’s original decision to charge for API access was met with a wave of protests from users and developers. The company argued that the new pricing structure was necessary to cover the costs of maintaining and operating the API, but many critics argued that it was simply a way to extract more money from users.
Free API access is typically limited to bots and testers who only need to post tweets. This tier allows for up to 1,500 tweets per month and one app ID, which may be insufficient for creators who need to post more frequently. Basic access costs $100 per month and has a fixed tweet cap, while businesses must use multiple enterprise-level tiers to meet their needs, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars per month.
Musk previously suggested the fee, and verification process, will help prevent malicious bots:
However, government services were particularly affected by Twitter’s decision to charge for API access. The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) said it would stop posting service alerts on Twitter after it was quoted a $50,000 per month fee.
In recent weeks, Microsoft also pulled Twitter from its social media tool for advertisers and disabled Twitter screenshot sharing for Windows and Xbox gamers.
The decision to restore free API access for government and public service organisations is a significant victory for these groups. It will allow them to continue to use the API to provide essential information to the public, without having to worry about the cost.
It is also a sign that Twitter is willing to listen to feedback from its users and developers. The company has faced a lot of criticism in recent months and this decision will be perceived as a step in the right direction.
Twitter still faces a number of challenges. The social network has struggled to monetise without driving users to rival platforms, strike a safe balance between free speech and censorship, and keep core functions working – let alone add new features – amid sweeping cuts to its workforce.
It remains to be seen whether Twitter will be able to adapt to these challenges. However, the decision to restore free API access for government and public service organisations provides a glimmer of hope.
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