Twitter users all across the world were taken aback last week when technical issues prevented many from sending out tweets, messages, or following additional accounts. In Egypt and the region, responses ranged from confusion and humor to outright anger.
Twitter’s policies prevent users from sending more than 500 direct messages, following more than 400 accounts, or sending out more than 2400 tweets per day; limits which are all documented in the website’s regulations.
However, on Wednesday 8 February, account holders worldwide who had not reached these numbers or even tweeted at all that day received messages about exceeding “the daily limit for sending tweets”. Some were also prevented from following accounts or sending direct messages, even though they were far from the stipulated limits.
In response to the massive volume of complaints from users worldwide, the official Twitter Support account issued an apology to those inconvenienced, explaining that the website’s team was working to fix the issue.
Twitter may not be working as expected for some of you. Sorry for the trouble. We’re aware and working to get this fixed.
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) February 8, 2023
The technical problems were indeed resolved by the following day. Nonetheless, after regaining the ability to tweet, many Egyptian and Arab users took to the platform expressing confusion or wondering whether their accounts had been suspended:
— Sara Alsherif (@sarahalsherif) February 8, 2023
جاني هبوط احسب حسابي تقفل طلع تويتر معلق عند الكل
— 🥑 (@6zsh9) February 8, 2023
Translation: I was about to pass out, I thought my account was shut down but turns out Twitter stopped working for everyone.
هل حد عنده تفسير لرسالة تويتر والتي تقول (لقد تجاوزت حد التغريد اليومي)
وبمراجعة قواعد تويتر وجدت ان حد التغريد اليومي 2400 تغريدة تشمل التغريد وإعادة التغريد والردود
وهذا بالتأكيد لم يحدث معي فمستحيل ان اكون تجاوزت ربع هذا الرقم.
أم هي بلاغات على الحساب؟ pic.twitter.com/9zcRjrsaEr
— the teacher02 (@02_teacher) February 9, 2023
Translation: Hi followers, does anyone have an explanation for the Twitter notification that says “you have reached the daily limit for sending out tweets”? When I reviewed Twitter’s guidelines I found that the daily limit is 2400 tweets including replies and retweets. I definitely did not reach this number, so is my account restricted?
Other users, in quintessential Arab fashion, turned to making memes out of the situation. The jokes simultaneously mocked the platform’s perceived incompetence under Elon Musk’s leadership and poked fun at account holders’ panicked response to the technical bug.
تويتر معلق عندكم ولا ؟
انا جاني إتصال من إيلون ويعتذر عن التعطيل اللي حصل في تويتر ف قلت اخذ رأيكم اول 🤓
تقبلون الاعتذار ولا ؟
— هدى العتيبيه (@baylonauk) February 9, 2023
Translation: Is Twitter bugging for everyone else too? I got a call from Elon Musk apologizing for the bug that happened on Twitter so I thought I would take your opinions first. Do you accept his apology or not?
تويتر معلق pic.twitter.com/mmqYOPavah
Some users directed outspoken anger at business magnate Elon Musk, who took over as CEO of Twitter in October 2022. Account owners expressed their discontent with not only the recent bug, but the flurry of policy updates implemented since Musk’s acquisition of the platform.
احنا كنا مزعلين ايلون ماسك ولا اي
— shaimaa (@Shaimaa01067) February 8, 2023
Translation: Was Elon Musk upset with us or something?
— Emo™👀 (@Wa7md19) February 9, 2023
Translation: My account was wrongfully shut down, Twitter… This is too much I swear to God you should compensate me for the ridiculous stuff I’ve seen, and I’m seeing, and will probably continue to see from you…
One user alluded to the ongoing rumor that Elon Musk is having engineers at Twitter manufacture engagement with his own tweets, postulating that this could be the reason behind the problems encountered by other users of the platform.
تويتر باظ منهم وهم ببطولوا التويتات
— المحروسة/مروة مأمون (@M7rusa) February 9, 2023
The same user went on to lament the missed opportunity for people in disaster areas to speak out about their experiences through Twitter, presumably in reference to the earthquake that recently struck Turkey and Syria.
المشكلة ان فيه ناس في مناطق منكوبة تعتمد عليه لإيصال صوتها، مش وقته خالص
— المحروسة/مروة مأمون (@M7rusa) February 9, 2023
Rumors of Elon Musk artificially inflating his engagement numbers were set off when a Twitter employee was allegedly fired for telling Musk that the number of views his tweets received on the platform had substantially decreased in recent months.
Ever since Musk’s takeover of Twitter last year, the website has lost advertisers, users, and ad revenue. The business magnate has also come under intense fire for his policy choices, primarily the introduction of a subscription-based verification system, Twitter Blue.
In exchange for a monthly eight US dollar fee, the platform affords Twitter Blue subscribers several perks including a blue verification tick next to their username. The coveted blue tick was previously used as one way to distinguish legitimate sources — such as government officials, journalists, or other public figures — from parody accounts or other impersonators.
Today, this distinction is still indicated when a user presses on a verified person’s profile; nonetheless, many feel that the decision could promote the spread of misinformation.
In the Arab World, Musk’s proposed policy of authenticating users to combat the surge of bots on the platform has reportedly been a cause of concern for activists who use Twitter to express political views or tackle other controversial topics anonymously.
These activists were worried that combating bots might involve de-anonymizing their accounts in the vetting process to make sure they were real people. Even if their names were not made public on the platform, several users were still uncomfortable with Twitter knowing who they are. As a result, some are considering turning to other platforms.
Beside the issues of legitimacy and disinformation, amidst all the practical changes introduced to the platform, users have encountered recurring technical problems. Some commentators attribute this to Musk’s controversial decision to lay off 50 percent of Twitter’s staff, including some of its highest-level engineers.
As of January 2022, Egypt is still counted among the twenty countries with the highest number of Twitter users in the world. However, the number of Egyptian and Arab users on the platform has been in consistent decline since 2013, with more users choosing to leave now as a result of continuous changes to the site.
As technical issues continue to hinder users’ trust in and enjoyment of the platform, and those qualified to fix these problems continue to be laid off; some begin to wonder if Twitter will remain one the world’s most popular social media networks, or soon face the fate of MySpace and Tumblr.