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Business News/ News / World/  Amid Turkey-Syria quake, Twitter's API crackdown prompts outcry. Read here

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that has left more than 35,000 dead in Turkey and Syria, several volunteer software developers are using a key Twitter tool to comb the microblogging site for calls for help – including from people trapped in collapsed buildings – and connect people with rescue organisations.

People could lose access unless they pay the platform a fee of at least $100 monthly, as Twitter will end free access to its API, or application programming interface.

The fee of $100 a month will be prohibitive for many volunteers and nonprofits on shoestring budgets.

Sedat Kapanoglu, the founder of Eksi Sozluk, one of Turkey's most popular social platform, who has been advising some of the volunteers in their efforts has said, “That's not just for rescue efforts which unfortunately we're coming to the end of, but for logistics planning too as people go to Twitter to broadcast their needs."

Nonprofits, researchers and others need the API tool to analyse Twitter data because the sheer amount of information makes it impossible for a human to go through by hand.

The Eksi Sozluk founder stated that hundreds of “good Samaritans" have been giving out their own, premium paid API access keys (Twitter already offered a paid version with more features) for use in the rescue efforts.

However, he believes this isn't “sustainable or the right way" to do this. It might even be against Twitter's policies.

Twitter shutting off free access to its API

Monday is the deadline the platform set for shutting off free access to its API, an added challenge for several developers in Turkey and beyond who are working endlessly to harness Twitter's unique, open ecosystem for disaster relief.

The confirmed death toll now stands at 35,331 as officials and medics said 31,643 people had died in Turkey and around 3,688 in Syria.

Akin Unver, a professor of international relations at Ozyegin University in Istanbul said, “For Turkish coders working with Twitter API for disaster monitoring purposes, this is particularly worrying — and I'd imagine it is similarly worrying for others around the world that are using Twitter data to monitor emergencies and politically contested events."

The new fees of $100 a month are just the latest complication for programmers, academics and others trying to use the AP — and they say communicating with anyone at the firm has become essentially impossible since Elon Musk took over Twitter in October 2022.

Musk has long said he wants to scour the microblogging site of bots, and has said that charging a minimum of $100 a month to access the API will “clean things up greatly."

The API paywall is the Twitter boss's latest attempt to squeeze revenue out of the platform, which is on the hook for about $1 billion in yearly interest payments from the billionaire's acquisition last year.

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Updated: 14 Feb 2023, 06:29 AM IST
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