Twitter backs off, allowing emergency accounts and traffic alerts to maintain free API access

After putting its API behind a paywall, Twitter is now reversing course and cutting out emergency and transportation agencies — some of which have already left the platform.

in Tweet The platform, posted from a Twitter Dev account on Tuesday, says that “verified or publicly owned government services that tweet out weather alerts, transit updates, and emergency notifications” can continue to use the API for free. What exactly the company means by “verified” isn’t clear. Does it only apply if the agency enables a new “verified” account, and do they have to pay to have checkmarks on any subaccounts that might require API access?

We really started to see the effects of these API changes last month when several emergency and transportation accounts had issues posting alerts on the platform. While some National Weather Service (NWS) accounts have been suspended from Twitter without explanation, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) have also experienced disruptions accessing their API.

In response to this change, MTA chirp“Glad that Twitter got the message. We are pleased that they have committed to making API access free for MTA and other public sector agencies. In light of this reflection, we are evaluating our options for service alerts going forward.”

Other affected services, including the NWS, United States Geologic Service, and US Forest Service, similarly directed users to other ways users could receive real-time alerts, but they never left the platform. BART spokesman James Allison also said at the time that the agency would continue to use Twitter while “closely monitoring the situation.”

With the free version of Twitter’s API, users can only post 1,500 automated tweets per month. Prices go up from there, with the basic amateur tier costing $100 per month and the “low cost” enterprise plan reportedly going for $42,000 per month. This setting is clearly not ideal for the many weather and transportation agencies that send out many automated tweets every day to alert users of emergencies or travel delays.

Update 7:14 PM ET: MTA response added.

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