Twitter Plans to Charge for Quake Victim Search Tool

February 14, 2023

The social media giant Twitter prompted outcry when it recently announced plans to start charging at least $100 per month for a crucial tool being used to find Turkey and Syrian quake victims.

Thousands of volunteer software developers have been using Twitter API (Application Programming Interface) to comb the platform for calls for help, including from people trapped in collapse buildings, and to connect people with rescue organizations. 

But Twitter announced that very soon, “Paid basic access that offers low level of API usage, and access to Ads API for a $100 monthly fee.”

Nonprofits, researchers and others have been relying on API to analyze Twitter data because the sheer amount of information makes it impossible for a human to go through it all by hand.

The loss of free API access on Twitter is “particularly worrying” for Turkish coders who’ve been using the tool as they work around the clock on disaster relief, said Akin Unver, a professor of international relations at Ozyegin University in Istanbul. “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.”

According to Sedat Kapanoglu, the founder of Eksi Sozluk, Turkey’s most popular social platform, hundreds of “good Samaritans” have been giving out their own, premium paid API access keys for use in the rescue efforts. However, he says this isn’t “sustainable.” Further, it might even violate Twitter’s rules.

Twitter had originally planned to introduce the changes last week, but delayed until Monday. Then on Monday Twitter announced it was delaying the shift by “a few more days,” adding only, “More information to follow.”

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