Last week, Twitter said it is shutting down free access to its APIs starting February 9. Now, days before the deadline, Elon Musk said that due to feedback Twitter will provide a write-only API for “bots providing good content that is free.”
This decision is as opaque as some of the other policy decisions under Musk’s management. There is no information on what constitutes “good content” and who will decide that.
Previously, Twitter shuttered API access to third-party clients saying they broke a “long-standing rule” without any specification. Then the company silently updated its developer terms to reflect that app can’t “use or access the Licensed Materials to create or attempt to create a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications.”
Following the announcement, a lot of developers who made fun of bots criticized the decision saying that their automation provided free content to people and in turn enhanced the services. Last week, Buzzfeed interviewed several bot developers who were unhappy with the decision. These include @_restaurant_bot which tweets random photos of restaurants and @_weather_bot_which tweets images of different places with weather updates.
At the moment, it’s not clear if accounts like @BigTechAlert, which tweets about big tech execs and organizations following and unfollowing each other, will be eligible for this free tier as they might need to scan account information.
Darius Kazemi, a developer who has made over 80 bots and even organized a bot devs summit in 2016, told TechCrunch over a call that these automated accounts have been an integral part of Twitter for years. He said that some of these bots with thousands of followers bring joy to many people daily.
He mentioned that it would be costly to maintain these bots who are providing free content to the platform
“I have more than 80 bots on Twitter so it would take me several thousand dollars to keep them up every year and I can’t afford that kind of money,” he said.
Even if Twitter gives minimal free API access to content provider bots, that still leaves student developers and researchers who might not have a budget to pay a monthly fee.