Twitter’s plan to charge for crucial tool prompts outcry

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. aftermath / ˈæf tərˌmæθ / (n.) – the time that follows an unpleasant event

    A lot of areas are flooded in the aftermath of the storm.

  2. comb / koʊm / (v.) – to search through something carefully and completely

    The rescuers combed through the forest to find the missing dog.

  3. on a shoestring budget / ɒn ə ˈʃuˌstrɪŋ ˈbʌdʒ ɪt / (idiom) – having little money to spend on a project or plan

    You can have a great vacation in the Philippines even on a shoestring budget.

  4. by hand / baɪ hænd / (idiom) – done by a person and not by a computer or machine

    It’s hard to believe that this very detailed painting was done by hand.

  5. harness / ˈhɑr nɪs / (v.) – to use the power of something

    Windmills help us harness wind energy.


Read the text below.

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria, thousands of volunteer software developers have been using a crucial Twitter tool to comb the platform for calls for help — including from people trapped in collapsed buildings — and connect people with rescue organizations.

They could soon lose access unless they pay Twitter a monthly fee of at least $100 — prohibitive for many volunteers and nonprofits on shoestring budgets.

“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,” said Sedat Kapanoglu, the founder of Eksi Sozluk, Turkey’s most popular social platform, who has been advising some of the volunteers in their efforts.

Nonprofits, researchers and others need the tool, known as the API, or Application Programming Interface, to analyze Twitter data because the sheer amount of information makes it impossible for a human to go through by hand.

Kapanoglu says 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. But he says this isn’t “sustainable or the right way” to do this. It might even be against Twitter’s rules.

The loss of free API access means an added challenge for the thousands of developers in Turkey and beyond who are working around the clock to harness Twitter’s unique, open ecosystem for disaster relief.

“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,” said Akin Unver, a professor of international relations at Ozyegin University in Istanbul.

The new fees are just the latest complication for programmers, academics and others trying to use the API — and they say communicating with anyone at the company has become essentially impossible since Elon Musk took over.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Is it common to use social media in your country for rescue efforts during emergencies? Do you think it’s a good way to spread this kind of information? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • With Twitter making the API tool a paid service, rescuers are using API access keys from generous people. However, it might be against Twitter’s rules. Should Twitter give the account owners penalties? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Twitter might charge $100 per month to use some of its features. Do you think it’s a good idea for social networking sites to have paid features? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • How can social media be used for the good of the public? Discuss.