The Free Twitter API Ends and The Twitter Silo Begins

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Social networks and social networks are based on people connecting with other people. Twitter is a glorified chatroom masquerading as a microblogging platform. As twitter shifts from being free, to being paying, it is losing it’s appeal.

Fifteen years ago there was plenty of discussion about Social Media silos and the social graph, and discussion about ROI for businesses, PR firms and personalities. They always forgot about the user. They exploit the user because the user, in their eyes, is an addict. This attitude make it okay to exploit social media users, in their eyes.

Screen capture of twitter dev account tweets about paying API

I am not worried about losing bots. Bots make a lot of noise, but don’t help Twitter, as a social network. What bothers me is the phrase “Twitter data are among the world’s most powerful data sets.” Facebook said the same thing, and then we read about Cambridge Analytica, emotion experiments, phone draining potential and more. We also read from books like Mindf*ck that Facebook was used to manipulate people to vote one way rather than the other. We learned that FaceBook could not be trusted with our data.

Now Twitter is using the same phrases. As I see the changes made by Musk I see that Twitter is becoming a silo, like FaceBook and Instagram. Twitter is no longer a social network. Twitter is a data farm where we are expected to pay, for content to be pushed on us, rather than seeing organic tweets, and where our data is mined by untrustworthy groups.

Through his actions Musk is turning Twitter into a data silo that I no longer want to be a part of.

Techcrunch addresses the topic from the reverse angle. “Twitter’s new announcement might impact research in different areas, including hate speech and online abuse.” On the one hand Twitter is making it harder to police what content is posted whilst encouraging others, with deep pockets to exploit that data.

TechDirt thinks that this move will encourage developers to move towards Mastodon but Mastodon is just one of many alternative websites. I would go further. By blocking access to the API twitter is encouraging people to lose trust in the company. First it blocks the apps people used to post and read tweets, then it blocked the API for bots, and tools for checking account related information, for example “map my followers” and other functionality. With the decline of those tools such actions will need to be manual.

The Washington Times phrased it as “Twitter shutting down free access to its public data”. Twitter should have become Not For Profit. It should have been made sustainable, whilst allowing people to converse globally. It is now sliding in the opposite direction, to become a silo, for people who want to exploit the data to manipulate people, rather than help spread news, information, friendships and conversations. Twitter, by moving towards becoming a silo, is removing the features that made it the strong, vibrant community that it was.

The Instagram API

I posted over 4000 images to Instagram over the years, until FaceBook bought and then destroyed the app. I used to post every single day, until I found that the app felt more and more lonely, and more and more of a waste of time. It had switched from being a social network to being an influencer network, where loneliness was the cost.

I tried to play with the API, to use Instagram externally but because of the blocks in place I couldn’t access my own data, without first proving that I should have access to it. That is what encouraged me to spend a few days trying to import the Instagram JSON file to WordPress. It worked, and I was happy. I had found a workflow to recover my data, and use it for my own website, rather than to provide content for a platform that did not respect me as a user.

Twitter is now doing the same. If we can’t access the API to use twitter as we want, then it does encourage us to move along, to the new alternatives, or, as I am doing, to write blog posts every day. This is day eighty of writing a blog post every single day.

If it wasn’t for the community I would have dumped Twitter years ago.