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Cat saves 'good bots' from Twitter API purge

Account posting pics of pet returning home convinces Musk to chill about access rules

File the decision to withdraw free access to its API under "Twitter doing dumb things" because owner Elon Musk has partially walked back on it mere days later.

Last month, third-party Twitter clients suddenly stopped functioning without explanation. This caused the death of numerous projects, including the popular Twitterific app, and bot accounts ceased activity too. Twitter later pasted a bunch of new rules into its Developer Agreement as justification.

Last week, the Twitter Dev account announced: "Starting February 9, we will no longer support free access to the Twitter API, both v2 and v1.1. A paid basic tier will be available instead."

The backlash was severe and immediate, with developers pointing out that their work improves the utility of Twitter for many users and that they often do it for free. There is also the issue of data scientists and researchers who used that data in their jobs suddenly having access revoked.

But what Musk failed to understand is that bot accounts, those programmed to autonomously post whatever information through the Twitter API, form a large part of what people enjoy about the platform. There are some examples of the most useful or entertaining ones here.

Musk's relationship with bots is weird. First he claimed Twitter was obscuring the number of "fake bot accounts" when he set about buying the company, trying to get a better price than the one he offered. Then, not long into his stewardship, the bot that tracked the movements of his private jet was suspended and later reinstated with an added delay.

He claimed that the free API was "being abused badly by bot scammers & opinion manipulators," adding: "Just ~$100/month for API access with ID verification will clean things up greatly."

Since Twitter's finances are in chaos due in no small part to Musk's takeover, the most believable reason is simply another revenue stream for a dataset Twitter reckons is "among the world's most powerful."

Yesterday Musk flip-flopped once again, saying: "Responding to feedback, Twitter will enable a light, write-only API for bots providing good content that is free," with the potential proviso that the account owner is Blue verified. The "feedback" was a plea from an account that posts images and videos each time a cat returns home.

Is that "good content"? It has more than 210,000 followers so we must be having an "OK Boomer" moment. Still, who will become the arbiter of "good content"? Considering the state of the man's timeline, it really shouldn't be Musk. ®

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