Social messaging service Twitter implemented two drastic changes on the site that limited access to it for a large number of users. First, Twitter limited access to anonymous users, so that these started to see login or sign-up prompts instead of the posts that they wanted to access.
Then, just a few days later, Twitter applied rate limits to all members of the site. The limits were applied to all members, free and paying alike, but paying members were allowed to view more posts before they reached their limits. Site engineers increased the rate limits on Twitter several times since the initial introduction.
Elon Musk stated on the day the rate limits were introduced that Twitter was implementing them as temporary measures to “address extreme levels of data scraping & system manipulation”.
Today, Twitter published a post on the official Business Blog that provided additional information on the changes and a reason for implementing them seemingly in a hurry.
Twitter writes: “To ensure the authenticity of our user base we must take extreme measures to remove spam and bots from our platform. That’s why we temporarily limited usage so we could detect and eliminate bots and other bad actors that are harming the platform. Any advance notice on these actions would have allowed bad actors to alter their behavior to evade detection.”.
According to the post, Twitter implemented the read ratios on the site as a honeypot to identify spam and bots on its platform. It had to implement the changes without prior notice, as giving prior notice would have allowed bad actors to change their behavior.
Twitter attempts to reach two goals with the implemented measures:
- Prevent third-parties from scraping content on Twitter, including people’s public profiles, to build AI models.
- Prevent manipulation of “people and conversation on the platform”.
Only a “small percentage of people using the platform” are affected by the limitations at the time, according to Twitter. It is unclear from the description whether that means that affected users are hitting the rate limits or if the limits are applied to a small percentage of users only.
Twitter promises that it will publish an update once it has reached its goals. Since the post was published on the Business blog, Twitter uses it to reassure advertisers that advertising was affected in a minimal way only.
Twitter, in the meantime, has started to limit access to Tweetdeck to verified members who pay the service a subscription fee.