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'Stop investing in Twitter immediately': Limits on tweet-reading reportedly sour advertisers

Says move to mitigate "scraping to build AI models" has had "minimal" effect on advertising, but critic says it worsens "advertiser trust deficit" since Musk purchase.

Published: July 4, 2023 9:24pm

Three days after Twitter owner Elon Musk told users it would temporarily limit how many tweets they can read to "address extreme levels of data scraping & system manipulation," the company is defending the move against criticism from users and advertisers.

CEO Linda Yaccarino pointed users Tuesday to an official corporate explanation as opposed to Musk's brief weekend tweet, which itself followed unexplained apparent outages reminiscent of Twitter's early days.

"To ensure the authenticity of our user base we must take extreme measures to remove spam and bots" as well as "other bad actors that are harming the platform," an unsigned statement on Twitter's business website says. 

It could not tell good-faith users without first giving an opportunity to "bad actors to alter their behavior to evade detection," the statement says. It's working to keep the latter from "scraping people’s public Twitter data to build AI models" and "manipulating people and conversation on the platform in various ways."

The change affects "a small percentage" of users and the effects on advertising have been "minimal," the company says. "At times, even for a brief moment, you must slow down to speed up." Yaccarino defended the measure as "big moves to keep strengthening the platform."

Musk initially said verified accounts can temporarily read up to 6,000 posts a day, existing unverified accounts 600, and new unverified accounts 300. Within two hours he raised it to 8,000, 800 and 400, respectively, and three hours after that, 10,000, 1,000 and 500.

Advertising industry veterans told Reuters before the official explanation the change would hurt Twitter's efforts to draw back advertisers who fled after Musk's purchase. Some users posted screenshots showing they couldn't even see tweets on the pages of corporate advertisers.

"The advertiser trust deficit that Linda Yaccarino needs to reverse just got even bigger," said Mike Proulx, research director at Forrester. "And it cannot be reversed based on her industry credibility alone." 

TMW Unlimited executive Olivia Wedderburn said she was telling clients to "stop investing in Twitter immediately" because the move turns off heavy users, the "sole reason" to advertise on Twitter.

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