Twitter gives it to you and takes it away from you (and gives it back again)

With the cloud and the ubiquitous free services we as users have surrendered to the feudal lords. We surrender our independence and rights to feudal lords in exchange for free but valuable (for us) services.

With the exception of people like me, always worried about privacy, security and personal rights, most people are OK with that. "We don't have anything to hide", they say. And that can be true in the sense of you not being a serial killer or cheating on your partner, but sure you don't share your tax forms, your private pictures or your home security cameras with everybody online. So yes, you have things to hide. Not because you are doing anything wrong, but because some things are just private. Nobody else's business.

Most of the time we, as vassals, live an easy life under our lords' protection. We get useful services for free (email, picture hosting, blog hosting, collaboration tools, social network management, ...) in exchange for commercial exploitation of our personal profiles and our acquaintances' ones. Fair enough, if you know what you are getting into, and you decide that that is OK.

The rule under feudal lords ruling is simple: Do whatever we say, don't stand out. Don't get noticed. Most of the time that is easy enough. But sometimes you are simply unlucky.

I got this email a few days ago:

This is a notice that your application, FEED RSS de, is no longer allowed to perform write operations.

Please make sure that your application follows Twitter's API Terms of Service

To request that your application be re-enabled for write operations, please visit our support form.

While this restriction is still in place, please do not attempt to register a new API key for your application without authorization from Twitter. Such an action is a violation of our API Terms of Service and may result in the permanent suspension of your application (as well as any associated developer accounts).

We talked about my application "FEED RSS de" previously in this blog, in the document Ten tu propia pasarela RSS -> Twitter (article in Spanish). There I described a tiny Python 3 script for forwarding a RSS feed to Twitter and, indirectly, to Facebook too.

Notice that it only write in your own personal Twitter account.

In my particular case, this program only posted on my own Twitter account thirteen times, during a period of three months. Hardly spammy. Hardly abusive. Quite low profile, doesn't it?.

I checked Twitter Terms of Service and couldn't find anything relevant. The suspension email doesn't give away any hint either. They don't say what rule I have violated. What to do now?.

Being the bad ass I am, I filled the support form, explaining how the program works, its low traffic and that it only post on my own account, without external references. With little hope, I asked for clarification. What rule had I broke?

Much to my surprise I got a reply only seven hours later:

Hello @jcea,

Twitter has automated systems that find and disable abusive API keys in bulk. Unfortunately, it looks like your application got caught up in one of these spam groups by mistake. We have reactivated the API key and we apologize for the inconvenience.

Twitter Platform Operations

So, it was a computer error. It is funny how many times I have seen that explanation. I wonder too when it is going to happen again. Puff.

So, yes. We live in a feudal world. Most of the time everything is fine, at least if you don't think/mind about your privacy and how come somebody can afford to give you such amazing and convenient free services. But, from time to time, even being part of the herd is not going to protect you.

I am glad Twitter corrected its mistake, and that they did it so fast. My experience with other feudal lords has been far worse. I am grateful. Thanks, Twitter. But I can't stop thinking that vassals have no rights and exists only to strengthen the Lord market position. Vassals are dispensable.

We live in a dangerous world. We grow dependent of services we are not paying with money, and so we don't have the right to complain because they are free. What if the suspended service was something essential for my business?.

I was lucky avoiding this bullet. But luck is finite.