Archive for Twitter

Elon Musk Wants You To Pay $42K A Month Or More To Access Data Via Twitter’s API… WTF?

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 13, 2023 by itnerd

I’ll start with the top level headline from Wired in terms of what Elon Musk would like you to pay for access to data via Twitter’s API, then I’ll tell you what I think:

Twitter’s API is used by vast numbers of researchers. Since 2020, there have been more than 17,500 academic papers based on the platform’s data, giving strength to the argument that Twitter owner Elon Musk has long claimed, that the platform is the “de facto town square.”

But new charges, included in documentation seen by WIRED, suggest that most organizations that have relied on API access to conduct research will now be priced out of using Twitter.

It’s the end of a long, convoluted process. On February 2, Musk announced API access would go behind a paywall in a week. (Those producing “good” content would be exempted.) A week later, he delayed the decision to February 13. Unsurprisingly, that deadline also slipped by, as Twitter suffered a catastrophic outage

The company is now offering three levels of Enterprise Packages to its developer platform, according to a document sent by a Twitter rep to would-be academic customers in early March and passed on to WIRED. The cheapest, Small Package, gives access to 50 million tweets for $42,000 a month. Higher tiers give researchers or businesses access to larger volumes of tweets—100 million and 200 million tweets respectively—and cost $125,000 and $210,000 a month. WIRED confirmed the figures with other existing free API users, who have received emails saying that the new pricing plans will take effect within months.  

I see thee possibilities for this rather stupid pricing scheme:

  • Elon has completely lost the plot in terms of his desperation to get Twitter to make money. And this is akin to a “Hail Mary” from Elon to get money in Twitter’s bank account.
  • Elon doesn’t want anyone doing deep dives on Twitter. Perhaps to cover up what a hate filled, right wing cesspool that it has become under Elon’s leadership. Thus he’s pricing it out of reach to accomplish that.
  • All of the above.

Nobody is going to pay these prices. That’s the bottom line. And the second possibility that I listed is perhaps bolstered by this:

While this sounds like a substantial dataset, it only accounts for around 0.3 percent of Twitter’s monthly output, meaning it is far from being a comprehensive snapshot of activity on the platform. Twitter’s free API access gave researchers access to 1 percent of all tweets.

If Elon is truly stupid enough to go ahead of this, it may cause him a big headache:

The timing of the change comes as the European Commission on Thursday will publish its first reports from social media companies, including Twitter, about how they are complying with the EU’s so-called code of practice on disinformation, a voluntary agreement between EU legislators and Big Tech firms in which these companies agree to uphold a set of principles to clamp down on such material. The code of practice includes pledges to “empower researchers” by improving their ability to access companies’ data to track online content.

Thierry Breton, Europe’s internal market commissioner, talked to Musk last week to remind him about his obligations regarding the bloc’s content rules, though neither discussed the upcoming shutdown of free data access to the social network.

“We cannot rely only on the assessment of the platforms themselves. If the access to researchers is getting worse, most likely that would go against the spirit of that commitment,” Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s vice president for values and transparency, told POLITICO.

“It’s worrying to see a reversal of the trend on Twitter,” she added in reference to the likely cutback in outsiders’ access to the company’s data.

While the bloc’s disinformation standards are not mandatory, separate content rules from Brussels, known as the Digital Services Act, also directly require social media companies to provide data access to so-called vetted researchers. By complying with the code of practice on disinformation, tech giants can ease some of their compliance obligations under those separate content-moderation rules and avoid fines of up to 6 percent of their revenues if they fall afoul of the standards.

Yet even Twitter’s inclusion in the voluntary standards on disinformation is on shaky ground. 

The company submitted its initial report that will be published Wednesday and Musk said he was committed to complying with the rules. But Camino Rojo — who served as head of public policy for Spain and was the main person at Twitter involved in the daily work on the code since November’s mass layoffs — is no longer working at the tech giant as of last week, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions within Twitter. Rojo did not respond to a request for comment.

If Elon seriously thinks he can take on the the EU and win, he’s delusional. Microsoft lost against them and Google lost against them. Which means he has zero chance against the EU. If I were him, I’d open up the API to all who want it at a level that makes sense for free. Say 1% to 5% of Tweets. But he’s not going to do that and as a result, he’s going to get into a fight with a group he has no hope of beating.

BBC Reports On Twitter Being Unable To Protect Users From Trolling And Other Evils Under Elon Musk…. And The Reporter Behind The Story Gets Death Threats As A Result

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 8, 2023 by itnerd

Twitter has become a toxic swamp of hate under Elon Musk. There’s honestly no question about that. And its being highlighted by this story from the BBC which illustrates that perfectly:

Twitter insiders have told the BBC that the company is no longer able to protect users from trolling, state-co-ordinated disinformation and child sexual exploitation, following lay-offs and changes under owner Elon Musk.

Exclusive academic data plus testimony from Twitter users backs up their allegations, suggesting hate is thriving under Mr Musk’s leadership, with trolls emboldened, harassment intensifying and a spike in accounts following misogynistic and abusive profiles. 

Current and former employees of the company tell BBC Panorama that features intended to protect Twitter users from trolling and harassment are proving difficult to maintain, amid what they describe as a chaotic working environment in which Mr Musk is shadowed by bodyguards at all times. I’ve spoken to dozens, with several going on the record for the first time.

The former head of content design says everyone on her team – which created safety measures such as nudge buttons – has been sacked. She later resigned. Internal research by Twitter suggests those safety measures reduced trolling by 60%. An engineer working for Twitter told me “nobody’s taking care” of this type of work now, likening the platform to a building that seems fine from the outside, but inside is “on fire”.

Twitter has not replied to the BBC’s request for comment.

I encourage you to read this full story as it paints a really ugly picture of what Twitter has become under Elon Musk. If you’re in the UK, I also encourage you to watch this BBC Panorama documentary which also details how bad Twitter is under Elon Musk. It’s truly mind blowing.

Now I was going to post everything that I wrote above as part of this story. But I ended up breaking this story into a separate one to add more details. Specifically this which was brought to light by a reader of the blog this morning:

What you see here is Elon basically giving Twitter users who follow him the permission to harass and threaten anyone he doesn’t like. In this case, this reporter who highlighted how bad Twitter has become under Elon. That by any standard is unacceptable. The fact is that Elon is a bully, and like most bullies he’s a scared one as apparently he walks around with bodyguards who even go into the washroom with him. What simply needs to happen is that someone bigger and tougher, like the FTC for example, needs to take him down. Or his shareholders at Tesla for example need to rise up and oust him as CEO. Or Twitter needs to crash and burn on his watch which would make look like a bigger loser than he already is. Because by the time that Elon is all but encouraging his followers to go after those he doesn’t like, you know that he’s someone that needs to held accountable for his behaviour. And the sooner that happens, the better.

Elon Musk Mocks Twitter Employee While He Faces A FTC Probe

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 8, 2023 by itnerd

Elon Musk is a total dirtbag. He mocked an ex-employee on Twitter, and it was savage:

Haraldur Thorleifsson, who until recently was employed at Twitter, logged in to his computer last Sunday to do some work — only to find himself locked out, along with 200 others.

He might have figured, as others before him have in the chaotic months of layoffs and firings since Elon Musk took over the company, that he was out of a job. 

Instead, after nine days of no answer from Twitter as to whether or not he was still employed, Thorleifsson decided to tweet at Musk to see if he could catch the billionaire’s attention and get an answer to his Schrödinger’s job situation. 

“Maybe if enough people retweet you’ll answer me here?” he wrote on Monday.

Eventually, he got his answer after a surreal Twitter exchange with Musk, who proceeded to quiz him about his work, question his disability and need for accommodations (Thorleifsson, who goes by “Halli,” has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair) and tweet that Thorleifsson has a “prominent, active Twitter account and is wealthy” and the “reason he confronted me in public was to get a big payout.” While the exchange was going on, Thorleifsson said he received an email that he was no longer employed.

Like I said Elon is a total dirtbag. Something that someone who he clearly listens to must have told him because this happened:

“I would like to apologize to Halli for my misunderstanding of his situation. It was based on things I was told that were untrue or, in some cases, true, but not meaningful,” he tweeted. “He is considering remaining at Twitter.”

Sure. Elon decided to take shots at a differently abled person in public and looked like the dirtbag that he is. Then he had to clean it up when the blowback became too much for him to deal with. Because like I said earlier, he’s a total dirtbag. But strangely, this isn’t his biggest problem. This is:

The Federal Trade Commission is stepping up its investigation into some of Twitter’s most controversial decisions since Elon Musk took over the company last fall. That includes the company’s mass layoffs and the launch of Twitter Blue, as well as the company’s dealings with journalists involved with the so-called “Twitter Files,” according to a new report in The Wall Street Journal.

At issue, is Twitter’s 2022 settlement with the FTC over its use of “deceptive” ad targeting. Along with a $150 million fine, the company at the time agreed to a “comprehensive privacy and information security program,” as well as other strict measures meant to protect users’ privacy. But there’s been widespread concern from lawmakers and others that Twitter has not adhered to those requirements under Musk’s leadership.

Now, The Wall Street Journal reports that the FTC has sent at least a dozen letters to Twitter since last fall in an effort to get more information about the company’s handling of layoffs, Twitter Blue, the “Twitter Files” and other issues. The agency is also reportedly trying to depose Musk as part of the inquiry. The House Judiciary Committee also released a report about the FTC’s inquiries to Twitter.

If the FTC is investigating Twitter, Elon is deep trouble because they’re one of those agencies where if they’re knocking on your door, you’re likely guilty of something. And seeing as they want to depose Elon, I am going to guess that they are pretty sure that they have him dead to rights and want to prove it with him under oath. I’m calling it now, Elon is going do everything he possibly can to avoid being deposed. Because if that does happen, he’s screwed. And not in a good way.

UPDATE: The FTC has confirmed that it is investigating Twitter.

Twitter Took A Dirt Nap Today Because Of A Single Engineer

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 6, 2023 by itnerd

Once again, Platformer has got to scoop on what’s happening inside Elon Musk’s Twitter. In today’s episode, the have details about today’s Twitter’s latest dirt nap. And it illustrates the effects of Elon’s cost cutting measures:

But in a sign of just how deep Elon Musk’s cuts to the company have been, only one site reliability engineer has been staffed on the project, we’re told. On Monday, the engineer made a “bad configuration change” that “basically broke the Twitter API,” according to a current employee.

The change had cascading consequences inside the company, bringing down much of Twitter’s internal tools along with the public-facing APIs. On Slack, engineers responded with variations of “crap” and “Twitter is down – the entire thing” as they scrambled to fix the problem. 

Elon Musk was furious, we’re told.

“A small API change had massive ramifications,” Musk tweeted later in the day, after Twitter investor Marc Andreessen posted a screenshot showing that the company’s API failures were trending on the site. “The code stack is extremely brittle for no good reason. Will ultimately need a complete rewrite.”

Some current employees are sympathetic to that view, which places at least part of the blame for Twitter’s problems on technical failures that predate Musk’s ownership of the company. The fail whale became an icon of the old Twitter for a reason.

“There’s so much tech debt from Twitter 1.0 that if you make a change right now, everything breaks,” one current employee says. 

Still, when Musk took over the company, he promised to dramatically improve the speed and stability of the site. His associates screened the existing staff for their technical prowess, ultimately cutting thousands of workers who were deemed not “technical” enough to succeed under Musk’s leadership.

But nonstop layoffs have left the company with under 550 full-time engineers, we’re told. And just as former employees have predicted from the start, the losses have made Twitter increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic outages.

Yeah. Elon’s got a major problem on his hands. He’s basically backed himself into a corner where he doesn’t have the resources to run Twitter and keep it stable. And there’s no clear path for him to exit that corner. Which basically means that we need to buckle up as things are about to get even more turbulent than they already are in the Twitterverse.

Twitter Has Once Again Taken A Dirt Nap… And This Time It’s Big

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 6, 2023 by itnerd

Another day, another outage with Twitter. This outage has broken all links on Twitter because of errors with the link shortener redirect API. When you click on a link, you get this or something like it:

But that’s not all. Elon has managed to break more stuff. Images on Twitter are also completely broken for many users. The entire Tweetdeck web experience is also broken. And there’s still more than that. Specifically:

  • Twitter subdomains are broken for things like Developers, Ads, etc. are broken
  • The ability to report an account or a Tweet is broken

Of all the recent Twitter outages, this has been the worst by far. Thus confirming what I have been predicting for a while. Twitter’s reliability is on the decline and there’s nothing that Elon can do to stop the inevitable demise of Twitter. That’s really not going to help Elon make money from the platform because advertisers aren’t going to want to advertise on a platform that has one foot in the grave. Never mind people signing up for Twitter Blue. Because in either case, you’d just be throwing away your money.

Happy Monday Elon.

UPDATE: Speaking of Elon, he actually had something to say about this:

The platform wasn’t anywhere this “brittle” before he took over. Just an observation.

UPDATE #2: Twitter appears to be working…. For now.

Twitter’s Revenue Is In Free Fall

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 6, 2023 by itnerd

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Twitter Inc reported a drop of about 40% year-over-year in both revenue and adjusted earnings for the month of December. Which I think qualifies as being in free fall:

In an update to investors, Twitter reported a decline of about 40% year-over-year in both revenue and adjusted earnings for the month, the people said.

Chief Executive Mr. Musk, who completed his acquisition of Twitter last October, is working to stabilize the company’s finances, which also have been challenged by high-cost debt. Twitter is responsible for repaying some $13 billion of debt that helped pay for Mr. Musk’s purchase of the company, with annual interest payments estimated at more than $1 billion.

The company recently made a first interest payment to a group of banks that lent the $13 billion, the people said.

That’s two months after Elon took over at Twitter and shows that his management of Twitter isn’t producing positive results. Then there’s also this:

However, more than 70 of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers from before Mr. Musk’s takeover weren’t spending on the platform as of the week ended Feb. 25, according to an analysis from research firm Pathmatics, which is part of Sensor Tower. 

That’s another sign that Elon isn’t getting the results that he’s looking for. He claims that advertisers are returning to the platform, but I take that with a grain of salt as Elon has a habit of saying stuff that never happens. I fully expect that the next story that the Wall Street Journal, Platformer, or anyone else writes about Twitter’s finances, the situation will be way worse.

Twitter Has Taken Yet Another Dirt Nap This Morning

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 1, 2023 by itnerd

Not that I am surprised by this as I have been saying for a few weeks now to expect increased instability at Twitter, but Twitter currently has issues according to Down Detector:

This seems to have started at 5AM and users are reporting the following:

  • Twitter is making it look like that all the people that you are following have been erased. But that’s not actually the case when you check your profile.
  • Twitter lists worked and show new tweets. but others don’t and show a “Welcome To Twitter Message”
  • The “For You” feed works, but not the main feed. But this doesn’t seem to be the case for everyone as for some nothing works.

Funny enough, trending topics are still working as #TwitterDown is visible on my trending topics feed. And this is some of what I see:

What is clear is that Twitter’s ability to stay online is declining. And what is also clear is that Elon can’t do anything to improve this situation. And strangely, even though Twitter has gone down multiple times this year, he’s said nothing. That’s likely because he has nothing to say as Elon Musk isn’t the genius that he markets himself to be. Let’s face it, Twitter is doomed and it’s only a matter of time before we can give it, and Elon’s reputation their last rites.

The Twitter Layoffs Were Worse Than Reported…. And Who Got Laid Off Is Interesting As Well

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 28, 2023 by itnerd

Platformer has done it again by getting all the details of Twitter’s latest layoffs:

Last week, Twitter managers started receiving unexpected calls from Steve Davis. A longtime associate of Elon Musk’s — he began working at SpaceX in 2003 — Davis is currently CEO of The Boring Company. Since loaning himself out to Twitter last year, Davis has emerged as one of Musk’s top lieutenants there. 

Who on your team is exceptional? Davis asked managers when they got on the phone. Who would you bet your job on?

At first, managers assumed the questions were related to annual bonuses. In January, Musk’s associates told Twitter employees that high performers would receive new stock grants. That hadn’t happened yet. Perhaps now was finally the time?

On Saturday, though, the real reason for the calls was finally revealed. Twitter employees tried to log onto their work devices only to find that they’d been locked out, just like thousands of workers before them. Once again, there was no warning. If there was a twist here, it’s that the move came three months after Musk told employees that the company was done with layoffs

The cuts impacted more than 200 employees, we’re told, including product managers, engineers, and a number of people on data science. (The New York Times first reported the full scope of the terminations.) “Honestly, it felt like Elon got drunk and slept on the ‘del’ key on his phone,” a source said. “There is no pattern.”

Keep in mind that when reports of the layoffs started to surface, the figure that was “at least 50”. So going from 50 to 200 in a company that is estimated to have had about 1700 employees or less before these latest layoffs is a big swing of the axe.

And who got laid off is making news as well:

Among the more notable layoffs in this round were founders of companies that Twitter had acquired under its previous owners. Haraldur Thorleifsson, Martijn de Kuijper, Leah Culver, and Esther Crawford had previously been on a “do not fire” list, because it was going to be so expensive to pay them out: as part of their compensation packages, the founders had accelerated stock vesting. All four were cut over the weekend.

Chris Reidy, the company’s acting head of sales, also was cut, a source said.

The name Esther Crawford jumps out at me as she Tweeted this when Elon took over:

I guess that this proves that being loyal to Elon Musk gets you absolutely nothing at the end of the day. Seeing as Elon demanded people at Twitter be “hardcore” and Crawford responded. And got downsized anyway.

Though based on this, she’s taking it well. At least in public:

There is one other thing that Platformer is reporting:

Davis’ star has risen steadily since he came to Twitter as part of Musk’s transition team last year. In December, the Information reported that Musk tasked Davis with cutting $500 million in costs; instead, he cut close to $1 billion — all while sleeping in the office with his partner and their newborn child. His success in bringing costs down by any means necessary has led to growing speculation internally that Musk will choose him to be Twitter’s next CEO. 

Sure he is. Until Elon decides that he too needs to go in order to cut costs. Just watch. You’ll see.

Twitter’s Latest Round Of Job Cuts Are Going To Come Back To Bite Elon Musk

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 27, 2023 by itnerd

Elon Musk has publicly stated that he’s done cutting jobs at Twitter. But this like a lot of things that Elon has said is simply false as evidenced by this report that he’s slashed more jobs on Saturday:

Twitter has laid off “dozens” more workers as Elon Musk continues to slash costs, The Information reported.

The latest cuts, which the report said took place on Saturday, affected at least 50 staff including engineers responsible for keeping the social media platform’s systems running.

Among those who lost their jobs was Martijn Kuijper, who founded the Revue newsletter publishing platform bought by Twitter in January 2021, and then shut down last month following Musk’s takeover.

Since Musk’s $44 billion takeover in October, Twitter has laid off thousands of employees, reducing its headcount by almost 75%. 

Downsizing engineers who are responsible for keeping the platform going is going to make Twitter even more unstable than it currently is. In short, it’s a really bad idea that will come back to bite Elon sooner rather than later. What is clear here is that Elon isn’t succeeding at making Twitter revenue positive, which is making him more and more desperate to get things under control. Don’t be surprised if you see reports of more job cuts at Twitter in the coming days and weeks ahead. Along with greater instability on the platform.

Twitter Removes Captions From Twitter Spaces…. Dealing A Blow To Hearing Impaired Users

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 24, 2023 by itnerd

If you’re hearing impaired, and you’re a Twitter user, you’re not going to be using the Spaces feature on Twitter. According to The Verge, the caption feature that used to be part of Spaces is broken on multiple platforms:

Twitter Spaces, the company’s social audio rooms, no longer lets you use captions if you’re listening on iOS. Twitter still advertises that you can turn on captions through the three-dot menu in a Space, but on iOS, that option currently isn’t there.

On other platforms, it seems like captions should work but don’t. When listening to a Space on the web, captions don’t show, and while the “CC” closed captions button is present, clicking it on or off doesn’t change anything. On Android, the option to turn on captions is there, but it didn’t work for one Verge staffer.

While this could be a bug that could yet be fixed. Captions apparently haven’t worked for a while on Twitter Spaces. That implies that Elon Musk’s extreme cost cutting has resulted in the people behind this feature being downsized. Which means that there’s nobody left to fix whatever is wrong with this feature. There’s also the possibility that Elon and his incredibly short sighted mentality has simply yanked this feature. The thing is either is plausible. And either way, if you’re hearing impaired, it’s a big reason not to use Twitter as clearly that community doesn’t matter to Elon.