Thousands of people logged complaints about problems accessing Twitter on Saturday after owner Elon Musk limited most users to viewing 600 tweets a day — restrictions he described as an attempt to prevent unauthorized scraping of potentially valuable data from the site. The crackdown began to have ripple effects early Saturday, causing more than 7,500 people at one point to report problems using the social media service, based on complaints registered on Downdetector, a website that tracks online outages. Although that’s a relatively small number of Twitter’s more than 200 million worldwide users, the trouble was widespread enough to cause the #TwitterDown hashtag to trend in some parts of the world.
The service disruptions cropped up a day after Twitter began requiring people to log on to the service in order to view tweets and profiles — a change in its longtime practice to allow all comers to peruse the chatter on what Musk has frequently touted as the world’s digital town square since buying it for $44 billion last year.
In a Friday tweet, Musk described the new restrictions as a temporary measure that was taken because “we were getting data pillaged so much that it was degrading service for normal users!” Musk elaborated on the measures in a Saturday tweet that announced unverified accounts will temporarily be limited to reading 600 posts per day while verified accounts will be able to scroll through up to 6,000 posts per day.
The restrictions could result in users being locked out of Twitter for the day after scrolling through several hundred tweets. The higher threshold allowed on verified accounts is part of an $8 per month subscription service that Musk rolled out earlier this year in an effort to boost Twitter revenue that has fallen sharply since he took over the company and laid off roughly three-fourths of the workforce to cuts costs and stave off bankruptcy.
Advertisers have since curbed their spending on Twitter, partly because of changes that have allowed more sometimes hateful and prickly content that offends a wider part of the service’s audience. Musk recently hired longtime NBC Universal executive Linda Yaccarino to become Twitter’s CEO in an effort to win back advertisers. An Associated Press inquiry about Saturday’s access problems triggered a crude automated reply that Twitter sends to most press inquiries without addressing the question.