Twitter is announcing major limits on how users and apps can automate tweets, in order to combat spam and political propaganda bots. Developers are now banned from using any system that simultaneously posts “identical or substantially similar” tweets from multiple accounts at once, or makes actions like liking, retweeting, and following across multiple accounts at once. Twitter will remove these options from its own TweetDeck app, and third-party developers have until March 23rd to comply.
Twitter says these actions are “an important step in ensuring we stay ahead of malicious activity targeting the crucial conversations taking place on Twitter — including elections in the United States and around the world.” It alluded to the plan last month when it revealed that over 50,000 accounts were linked to Russian propaganda efforts.
The company laid out a series of specific policies and exceptions for account automation. Instead of sending the same tweet from multiple accounts, users can send one tweet and have multiple accounts retweet it, but they can’t use “bulk, aggressive, or very high-volume automated retweeting.” The ban on bulk tweeting applies regardless of whether you’re posting a bunch of duplicate tweets at once or scheduling them across a longer time period. Apps can still cross-post alerts from other services (like RSS readers) to Twitter, but only to a single account.
These new rules don’t apply to alerts for “weather, emergency, or other public service announcements of broad community interest” — so a tsunami warning, for instance, could be posted across a lot of different accounts at once.