By James Clayton
North America expertise reporter
On Saturday Twitter started to limit what number of tweets its customers may learn.
Elon Musk tweeted that unverified customers may learn 1,000 tweets, and verified customers 10,000 per day.
Folks started to share screengrabs of messages that they’d “exceeded” their each day allowance of tweets.
Elon Musk was doing one thing that appears unfathomable for a social media firm – he was limiting consumer exercise.
The transfer has baffled promoting executives.
Nonetheless that is a part of a for much longer sport that Elon Musk is enjoying – a battle with AI firms.
Let’s first begin off with how Twitter truly makes cash. The overwhelming majority of its income comes from promoting, similar to Meta and Google.
When customers go onto the platform, they’re served advertisements. The extra time they spend on Twitter, the extra advertisements they see. The equation is fairly easy. That’s the enterprise.
Nonetheless, Elon Musk has historically eschewed promoting. Tesla famously doesn’t do advertisements.
In 2019 he tweeted “I hate promoting”.
And but he’s purchased an organization that’s completely reliant on it.
So, Elon Musk is determined to generate totally different income streams.
This isn’t only a enterprise choice. He believes that advertisers maintain an excessive amount of energy over social media firms with regards to moderation.
Advertisers can, and have, pulled their cash from Twitter.
Advertisers don’t need their advertisements positioned subsequent to racist or extremist content material. And so Twitter’s fundamental income stream additionally has an affect over how a lot “free speech” is allowed on the platform.
Musk on layoffs, misinfo and sleeping within the officeTwitter quickly restricts tweets customers can seeTwitter restores blue tick to excessive profile accounts
Mr Musk instructed me in April that “most” of the advertisers had returned after initially pausing their advertisements from Twitter after his takeover.
Nonetheless Mr Musk has one other plan to show Twitter right into a worthwhile firm.
He desires Twitter to earn cash out of the huge quantity of information it holds.
Platforms like Twitter and Reddit maintain a treasure trove of a whole lot of billions of actual human conversations – an unimaginable useful resource for AI firms.
Massive language fashions (LLMs), can study from these interactions, and work out how to answer questions in additional human-like methods.
However platforms like Twitter and Reddit need to be paid for the usage of their knowledge on this method.
In April, Reddit’s chief govt Steve Huffman instructed the New York Occasions that he was sad with what AI firms had been doing.
“The Reddit corpus of information is actually useful,” he stated. “However we don’t want to provide all of that worth to a number of the largest firms on the earth totally free.”
At across the similar time, Elon Musk stated that Microsoft was “ripping off the Twitter database, demonetizing it (eradicating advertisements) after which promoting our knowledge to others”.
On Saturday it grew to become clear how annoyed Mr Musk was getting.
“We had been getting knowledge pillaged” he stated.
“Nearly each firm doing AI, from start-ups to a number of the largest companies on Earth, was scraping huge quantities of information,” he stated.
And so, by proscribing utilization, Elon Musk is hoping to stop its knowledge from being pulled into LLMs. He desires to barter with AI firms and receives a commission for the content material that they take.
However there could possibly be different elements at play too, and it goes again to a different considered one of his makes an attempt to lower Twitter’s reliance on promoting income.
Mr Musk is determined for folks to pay for Twitter.
For months, he’s been attempting to push folks in the direction of Twitter Blue. There’s been some carrot, giving Twitter Blue members a blue tick and verification, and a few stick – eradicating verification from customers that don’t pay.
However Twitter Blue has not been what Elon Musk had hoped. Folks aren’t paying up of their droves.
Maybe he’s taking a look at one other technique to get customers to open their wallets. In future, if need entry to limitless tweets, maybe you’ll need to pay a month-to-month price?
No matter Mr Musk is pondering, one factor is obvious although. Proscribing tweets just isn’t good for advertisers.
The boundaries are “remarkably unhealthy” for customers and advertisers already shaken by the “chaos” at Twitter, Mike Proulx, analysis director at Forrester, instructed Reuters.
That is maybe probably the most perplexing a part of Elon Musk’s restrictions. He has not too long ago employed Linda Yaccarino to be Twitter’s chief govt. She’s a former promoting govt.
She reportedly has grandiose concepts for a way Twitter can earn more money – together with full-screen video advertisements and attempting to persuade extra celebrities to make use of the app.
Her job is made far tougher by having restricted tweets. Fewer eyeballs on posts means advertisers might be much less taken with spending cash.
Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly launching a Twitter clone, referred to as Threads, sooner or later this summer time. The possibilities that there might be restrictions on its feed, on what number of posts you may learn, are zero. That’s not the Meta method.
Elon Musk is a very profitable businessman, and he has a real gripe with regards to AI firms ripping off its knowledge. However this weekend’s occasions have been one other head scratcher.
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Extra on this story
Musk on layoffs, misinfo and sleeping within the workplace
Twitter quickly restricts tweets customers can see
Twitter restores blue tick to excessive profile accounts