San Francisco Chronicle

Tool used in survivor search


In the aftermath of the devastatin­g earthquake in Turkey and Syria, thousands of volunteer software developers have been using a crucial Twitter tool to comb the platform for calls for help — including from people trapped in collapsed buildings — and connect people with rescue organizati­ons.

They could soon lose access unless they pay Twitter a monthly fee of at least $100 — prohibitiv­e for many volunteers and nonprofits on shoestring budgets.

“That’s not just for rescue efforts which unfortunat­ely we’re coming to the end of, but for logistics planning too as people go to Twitter to broadcast their needs,” said Sedat Kapanoglu, the founder of Eksi Sozluk, Turkey’s most popular social platform, who has been advising some of the volunteers in their efforts.

Nonprofits, researcher­s and others need the tool, known as the API, or Applicatio­n Programmin­g Interface, to analyze Twitter data because the sheer amount of informatio­n makes it impossible for a human to go through by hand.

Kapanoglu says hundreds of “good Samaritans” have been giving out their own, premium paid API access keys (Twitter already offered a paid version with more features) for use in the rescue efforts. But he says this isn’t “sustainabl­e or the right way” to do this. It might even be against Twitter’s rules.

The loss of free API access means an added challenge for the thousands of developers in Turkey and beyond.

The new fees are just the latest complicati­on for programmer­s, academics and others trying to use the API — and they say communicat­ing with anyone at the company has become essentiall­y impossible since Elon Musk took over.

Twitter had originally planned to introduce the changes last week, but delayed it until Monday. On Monday, the company tweeted that it was delaying the launch again “by a few more days,” without providing more details.

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