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In an about-face, Twitter says it has restored free access to a key tool for verified government and "publicly owned" services so they can tweet weather, transit and other alerts after New York City's transit agency said earlier this week it would no longer use the platform for its service advisories.
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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is among countless official and unofficial accounts that abruptly lost access to Twitter’s API, or application programming interface, to send out automated alerts about service changes and emergencies last week. By Thursday afternoon, senior executives agreed to cease publishing service alerts to the platform altogether.
A Twitter logo hangs outside the company’s offices in San Francisco, on Dec. 19, 2022. Twitter experienced a bevy of glitches Monday, March 6, 2023, as links stopped working, some users were unable to log in and images were not loading for others. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu / AP Newsroom)
The decision put the country’s largest transportation network among a growing number of accounts, from National Public Radio to Elton John, who have reduced their Twitter presence or left the platform since its takeover by Elon Musk.
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Twitter had signaled that the days of private accounts disseminating troves of information at no cost may be ending. Last month, the company announced a new pricing system that would charge for access to its API, which is used by accounts that post frequent alerts, such as transit and weather agencies.
A blue verification check on the page of Twitter Inc. on a smartphone arranged in the Brooklyn borough of New York, US, on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. Elon Musks agreement to buy Twitter Inc. is sending some users searching for alternative platforms with m (Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)
MTA officials estimated the cost could run as high as $50,000 a month. For a transit agency that faces a multibillion dollar deficit, paying that much raised concerns.
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So last Thursday, the MTA told its 1 million Twitter followers that it will no longer use the platform for service alerts and information.
A woman checks her phone in a subway station on April 28, 2023, in New York City. The MTA is not going along post real-time service updates on its Twitter feed, leaving its 1.3 million followers without this information source on their daily commutes (Photo by Leonardo Munoz/VIEWpress / Getty Images)
On Tuesday, Twitter backtracked and announced that "Verified gov or publicly owned services who tweet weather alerts, transport updates and emergency notifications may use the API, for these critical purposes, for free."
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In recent days, MTA officials have been in touch with Twitter’s development team, though the agency has not said whether it will return to publishing service alerts on Twitter in light of the change.
A representative for the MTA did not immediately respond to a message for comment.