From emergency alerts to Taylor Swift lyrics: Twitter risks alienating developers


Dan Morse isn’t sure what to do with his popular . Twitter account, @would_it_dong. A Twitter bot with more than 179,000 followers that measures the distance of . Home runs and tracks if they would count as homers in other major league ballparks.

Morse is one of many developers . left stranded after Twitter said last week it began charging people like . Him to automate accounts on the platform. And while the idea of bots now often conjures up ideas of state-based. Disinformation campaigns, many bots like Morse are labors of love . That generate no income.

From emergency alerts to Taylor Swift lyrics Twitter risks alienating developers
Morse said people have reached out to him suggesting he try to raise some money for the account. But he has little desire to go down that path.

“I want this bot to not cost anybody any money,” Morse said.
The initial announcement . About changes to Twitter’s API, short for application programming interface, came. Thursday when Twitter’s developer account tweeted that access would no longer be free. The same account announced that . Pricing for a tiered payment system will be released this Thursday.

A viral screenshot of an outdated . Pricing structure generated a mix of shock, outrage and resignation from developers.

Some took their concerns to. Twitter owner and CEO Elon Musk, who said the current API was being . Abused by bot scammers and opinion manipulators. Two days later, Musk, in response to concerns from an account . Tracking the arrivals and movements of a cat, said he would revise the new rules.

“In response to the feedback. Twitter will enable a lightweight, API for bots to . Deliver good content for free,” Musk tweeted on Saturday. While this provides some relief, the vague nature of “good content” still leaves many in the dark.

Many automated accounts rely on. Twitter’s API to function, providing a way for a developer to. Write a program that interacts with the platform. Twitter launched its API in 2006, inviting people to come up with ways to build bots that users might like.

Now, developers have created . A wide array of accounts that publish everything from emergency . Notifications to Taylor Swift songs Many of. The developers and groups behind those accounts said that charging for . API access could mean they’re unable to keep their bots running.

Going through this change, we will no . longer be able to serve emergency notifications via Twitter. Tweeted Cumberland Goodwill EMS, which serves . More than 63,000 areas in central Pennsylvania.

Bill Schnitzer, a Los . Angeles-based developer behind the EQBOT service that provides earthquake . Information for the Los Angeles and San . Francisco areas as well as global earthquakes above size 5.0, said that each of the five bots in his service has its own . Twitter page and following . Snitzer was able to monetize his services, making a small amount through an Amazon . Affiliate link But, he said the API price was “kind of a slap in the face”.

“It’s the dissemination of important. Information that could go away,” said Schnitzer. Who created the bot more than 10 years ago. “I’m being forced to pay, and I don’t like it. It’s kind of uncomfortable, kind of a moral issue.”

For researchers, the free API ensures access to important data. Sol Messing, an associate professor at . New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics, said his . Work relies on the Twitter API to gather information . About how social media platforms are used. Messing said he expects . Twitter’s API pricing to impact his projects. Slowing research and complicating coordination with other research groups.

“You need third-party analytics . On your social media platforms to protect against. Potential harm to society,” Messing said.

On Monday morning, the nonpartisan . Alliance for Independent Technology Research published a letter on . Twitter calling for “ensuring that APIs for studying . Public content on the platform remain accessible.”

Both Morse and Schnitzer have floated the idea of . Moving their services from Twitter to Mastodon. A decentralized social network site, though neither has yet to take action.

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