The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Twitter faces widespread outage as users told they’re over tweet limit

Users across the site reported an inability to send tweets

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco in 2022. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)
3 min

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter faced one of its first widespread outages of Elon Musk’s tenure on Wednesday, leaving the site unusable for many and prompting an internal scramble to restore the site’s features.

The outage persisted for hours and led Twitter to apologize to users for the trouble.

Twitter had shed more than two-thirds of its staff since Elon Musk took over the company last year, and the steep cuts have led many to wonder how long the site could continue functioning normally — and what might happen if technical problems arose.

On Wednesday, that concern became the reality as Twitter said it was working internally to get the problems fixed. “Sorry for the trouble. We’re aware and working to get this fixed,” it tweeted.

Attempts to send tweets were met with messages reading: “You are over the daily limit for sending tweets.” Beyond posting tweets, users reported an inability to send direct messages, follow other accounts, and load content on their timelines.

The website Down Detector, which tracks outages based on user reports, said: “User reports indicate problems at Twitter.”

While some tweets continued to load, many were from users who discovered a workaround to send their posts: scheduling tweets in advance.

Some of the functions appeared to be coming back late Wednesday afternoon, as the outage had stretched over an hour. But the problems persisted for many — as users refreshed the site to find their notifications were not loading and older tweets were populating their timelines. By late evening, many of the functions appeared to have been restored.

On Down Detector, the number of reports — which had peaked in the afternoon — was down but still well above normal levels.

Musk’s layoffs, and the fallout from an internal ultimatum urging staff to commit to an “extremely hardcore” Twitter or leave their jobs, led to feverish speculation about the downfall of Twitter. As hundreds departed the company after refusing to commit to Musk’s pledge, many departments — including those that handle core functions — were short-staffed, down to two, one or zero remaining workers.

Musk purchased the site for $44 billion in October, pledging to restore “free speech” and tackle issues such as spam and bots, as he heaped criticism on the prior management’s approach to content moderation.

A congressional oversight committee held hearings on Wednesday concerning allegations that Twitter’s previous staff made decisions favorable to Democrats in the 2020 elections. At the hearing, power briefly went out on Capitol Hill.

Even before Musk’s takeover, employees had raised concerns about Twitter’s resilience in the event of outages. Twitter’s off-site data centers were highlighted as a major vulnerability.

In a complaint obtained by congressional committees, whistleblower Peiter Zatko, for example, raised the prospect of overlapping outages at Twitter’s data centers that could leave it unable to correctly restart its servers. Such an outage, he said, could lead to a loss of critical data and leave the service down for months.