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.
Individuals started to share screengrabs of messages that they’d “exceeded” their every day allowance of tweets.
Elon Musk was doing one thing that appears unfathomable for a social media firm – he was limiting person exercise.
The transfer has baffled promoting executives.
Nevertheless that is a part of a for much longer recreation that Elon Musk is taking part in – a battle with AI corporations.
Let’s first begin off with how Twitter truly makes cash. The overwhelming majority of its income comes from promoting, identical 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.
Nevertheless, 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 determination. He believes that advertisers maintain an excessive amount of energy over social media corporations 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 principal 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.
Nevertheless Mr Musk has one other plan to show Twitter right into a worthwhile firm.
He desires Twitter to earn a living out of the huge quantity of knowledge it holds.
Platforms like Twitter and Reddit maintain a treasure trove of a whole bunch of billions of actual human conversations – an unimaginable useful resource for AI corporations.
Massive language fashions (LLMs), can be taught from these interactions, and work out how to answer questions in additional human-like methods.
However platforms like Twitter and Reddit wish to be paid for the usage of their information on this manner.
In April, Reddit’s chief government Steve Huffman instructed the New York Occasions that he was sad with what AI corporations have been doing.
“The Reddit corpus of knowledge is absolutely useful,” he mentioned. “However we don’t want to offer all of that worth to among the largest corporations on the planet free of charge.”
At across the identical time, Elon Musk mentioned that Microsoft was “ripping off the Twitter database, demonetizing it (eradicating advertisements) after which promoting our information to others”.
On Saturday it turned clear how annoyed Mr Musk was getting.
“We have been getting information pillaged” he mentioned.
“Nearly each firm doing AI, from start-ups to among the greatest companies on Earth, was scraping huge quantities of knowledge,” he mentioned.
And so, by limiting utilization, Elon Musk is hoping to stop its information from being pulled into LLMs. He desires to barter with AI corporations and receives a commission for the content material that they take.
However there might be different elements at play too, and it goes again to a different one among his makes an attempt to lower Twitter’s reliance on promoting income.
Mr Musk is determined for individuals to pay for Twitter.
For months, he’s been attempting to push individuals 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. Individuals aren’t paying up of their droves.
Maybe he’s one other solution to get customers to open their wallets. In future, if need entry to limitless tweets, maybe you’ll should pay a month-to-month charge?
No matter Mr Musk is pondering, one factor is evident although. Proscribing tweets will not be good for advertisers.
The bounds are “remarkably dangerous” for customers and advertisers already shaken by the “chaos” at Twitter, Mike Proulx, analysis director at Forrester, instructed Reuters.
That is maybe essentially the most perplexing a part of Elon Musk’s restrictions. He has not too long ago employed Linda Yaccarino to be Twitter’s chief government. She’s a former promoting government.
She reportedly has grandiose concepts for the 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 more durable by having restricted tweets. Fewer eyeballs on posts means advertisers can be much less inquisitive about spending cash.
Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly launching a Twitter clone, known as Threads, in some unspecified time in the future this summer time. The possibilities that there can be restrictions on its feed, on what number of posts you’ll be able to learn, are zero. That isn’t the Meta manner.
Elon Musk is a very profitable businessman, and he has a real gripe with regards to AI corporations ripping off its information. 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