Twitter’s latest decisions on its API have generated a small “earthquake” in Mexico. And the earthquake, given the circumstances, is quite timely. SASSLA, the Digital Risk Alert Platform in Mexico, recently launched through his official account a notice somewhat different from the ones that it usually issues, focused mainly on seismic or meteorological episodes and tsunamis. What he wanted to warn of was that Musk’s new policy could lead to three major seismic accounts stopping publishing soon. The reason: with the changes in the API they will have to pay for providing their service.
To understand the case, several questions must be answered.
What is SASSLA and what has he said? SASSLA sets the goal of “bringing to as many people as possible and for free” the signal of the Mexican Seismic Alert System. Its objective is to “promote a culture of prevention”. “At SASSLA we develop unique technology to transmit emergency alerts via the Internet, with dedicated infrastructure and ultra-low latency,” he says on his website, in which he reports on his app, with more than 4.5 million downloads. He has a verified account on Twitter (@SafeLiveAlert) with nearly 307,000 followers.
On February 10, he used that same platform to launch a warning: “Due to the new Twitter API restrictions announced by Elon Musk, the following seismic accounts may stop posting in the coming days.” The message included a list in which he cited two accounts, apart from @SafeLiveAlert itself: that of the Mexican Seismic Alert System (@SASMEX), with one million users; and that of the National Seismological Service (@SSNMexico), with 1.1 million.
Due to the new restrictions in the API of @Twitter who announced @ElonMuskthe following seismic accounts could stop publishing in the next few days:
• Mexican Seismic Alert System (@SASMEX)
• SACK (@SafeLiveAlert)
• National Seismological Service (@SSNMexico) https://t.co/GTl644tmdk
— SASSLA (@SafeLiveAlert) February 10, 2023
What are these accounts for? to report on recorded earthquakes in the country, including those of low intensity or imperceptible. His publishing pace is intense. In the case of @SSNMexico, for example, only on February 18 it accumulated 45 messages, latest on a magnitude 4.1 earthquake located 20 kilometers southeast of Río Grande. The service was founded in 1910 and for about a century it has been linked to the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM.
And what about the SASSLA notice? The impact on the service that, he assures, the changes adopted by Twitter will have. “It will require a cost for each tweet that is published automatically through its API,” notify those responsible: “Accounts that publish a large number of messages per month, such as the National Seismological Service, will have to pay up to MXN 15,000.00 or more.”
A change of criteria of the National Seismological? In Xataka México they contacted the National Seismological Service, which has explained that the change leaves them two options to continue updating their information in real time on Twitter: that the UNAM consider including in its budget the cost of “premium” access, of 100 dollars monthly, or adjust the information policy.
For practical purposes, this would go through a threshold change: instead of reporting all the seismicity, only those tremors with a magnitude 3.7 or even greater than 4 or 5 would be reported. The objective: adjust to the top of tweets. The rest, yes, will be detailed in your daily report on seismicity. Another option is to report only those perceived by the population, regardless of their level of intensity. From SASSLA they explain that they will not be able to cover the new API costs, so they would be forced to disable some of the current functions on Twitter.
Without your help, due to the latest change by @TwitterDev @LastQuake will have to stop its operations. We publish more than 1 000 tweets a month and are not eligible to the free option. Being a NGO we cannot afford to pay @elonmusk
Please RT to try to convince them to change https://t.co/NMjHhxN5k0
— EMSC (@LastQuake) February 9, 2023
What are the Twitter changes? Twitter recently announced significant changes to its API (Application Programming Interfaces), the set of protocols used to develop and integrate app software and which can basically be defined as the package of resources that allows an application to communicate with a plataform. On the table he leaves two possibilities: one without cost, but limited; and another that costs $100 per month.
Through his official Twitter DEV accountthe company explained that in the first case the publication of tweets is restricted to a maximum of 1,500 per month for a single authenticated user token. This cap is equivalent to a number of daily messages that complicates the activity of automated profiles such as those used in accounts dedicated to seismic alerts, which are very active.
And now that? In his explanatory thread, Twitter DEV noted a date: February 13. Recently, Jesús A. Pérez Santana, from the National Seismological Department, acknowledged to Xataka México that the institution’s account far exceeds the limit of the basic plan. Its daily average would in fact be 80 tweets and at the end of the month it would be around 2,400. On Tuesday the 14th, he recognized that it was still early to make a decision, since they were analyzing the exact scope of limited access to API 2.0.
Another body that already has shown concern beyond Mexico is the ESMC (@LastQuake), which a little over a week ago warned that it could be forced to stop operations. “We post more than 1,000 tweets a month and we are not eligible for the free option. Being an NGO we cannot afford to pay”. At least for now, both ESMC and SASSLA, AlertaSísmica SASME and Seismológico Nacional have continued to publish information on Twitter.
Also in Xataka: The earthquake that lasted 32 years and was detected with the help of a coral
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