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What does Twitter’s ‘rate limit exceeded’ restriction mean?

Twitter owner says new limits imposed to address ‘extreme levels of data scraping and system manipulation’

Vishwam Sankaran
Wednesday 05 July 2023 10:34 BST
Related video: Elon Musk ‘Takes Ketamine For Depression’

Thousands of Twitter users reported problems with the social media platform this weekend, with many receiving a message saying “rate-limit exceeded” on their personal feed page meant for curated content.

Many users complained of several issues over the weekend, such as disappearing timelines, an inability to retrieve or send out their own tweets or even send a direct message.

Users could scroll only a limited number of times on their curated “For You” personal feed pages before hitting limits.

Twitter owner and chief technology officer Elon Musk explained on Saturday that the platform was issuing temporary reading limits with verified accounts being restricted to reading 6,000 posts a day.

Mr Musk said the new restriction was applied “to address extreme levels of data scraping and system manipulation”.

The Tesla chief then later added that the “rate limits” were increasing to “8,000 for verified, 800 for unverified and 400 for new unverified”.

He then followed it with another update, raising the limits to 10,000, 1,000 and 500 respectively.

It remains unclear for how long the new restrictions will be in place as many users continue to face the “Rate limit exceeded. Please wait a few moments then try again” message.

Mr Musk has been attempting to generate more revenue for Twitter by making changes to the platform’s policy regarding the use of its API – the system used to communicate with other services.

The Tesla and SpaceX chief has previously expressed displeasure with third-party clients, including artificial intelligence firms, using Twitter’s data to train their AI models.

The company has been cutting its free API support, which has effectively killed off third-party services that rely on it.

Commenting on the outage, Adam Leon Smith of BCS, the UK’s professional IT body, said while data scraping may be “part of the reason”, there are likely to be “underlying technical problems” on the platform.

“The alleged data scraping could well be caused by Twitter now charging exorbitant fees for API access, which may have led to a secondary market for tweet data,” he said.

Mr Musk retweeted an Elon Musk parody account that said “we are all Twitter addicts and need to go outside”.

“I’m doing a good deed for the world here. Also, that’s another view you just used,” the tweet read.

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