Updated May 3, 2023 - Technology

Twitter won't make government agencies, public services pay for automated tweets

Illustration of the Twitter logo bird with a whistle in its mouth

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Twitter is no longer requiring verified government organizations or publicly owned services to pay for backend access to its interface. That access allows public service companies to be able to send automated alerts.

The big picture: The move marks a big reversal for CEO Elon Musk, who has a record of making big changes and then reversing course amid outcry.

  • Companies aren't buying into Musk's new vision for Twitter, with few paying to be verified and many pulling their use of the API plugin.

What they're saying: "One of the most important use cases for the Twitter API has always been public utility," the social media company said in a tweet.

  • "Verified gov or publicly owned services who tweet weather alerts, transport updates and emergency notifications may use the API, for these critical purposes, for free."

Catch up quick: Several public transit and safety agencies, including the National Weather Service and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, had said they'd stop tweeting alerts after the API changes.

  • The company announced in February it would shut off free access to its API and start charging companies whose apps and software need access to its services.
  • An API allows programs written by others to ask for data and submit requests directly without going through the consumer-facing front door.
  • National Weather Service spokesperson Susan Buchanan said the agency is "optimistic" that Twitter's policy change will resolve the issues regarding automated tweets of weather alerts and other information issued by the NWS.
  • The NWS is still awaiting approval for a gray check mark for some accounts, Buchanan said. A gray check mark identifies an account as belonging to a public or government agency.

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Andrew Freedman contributed to this story.

Editor's note: This story and its headline have been corrected to reflect that Twitter is no longer requiring government organizations or publicly owned services to pay for API access.

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