Twitter View Limits Affecting Local Govts’ Disaster Responses

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cars are seen submerged in Yamaguchi city on Saturday.

TOKYO, July 5 (Jiji Press) — Twitter’s newly introduced limits on the number of tweets users can view each day are starting to affect local governments’ responses to natural disasters in Japan, at a time when the country is in the rainy season.

The western Japan city of Yamaguchi, which was hit by heavy rain last week, uses Twitter to release information including river water levels. But the city was unable to post such tweets from Friday to Saturday, according to its disaster management division. “Twitter posts are frequently viewed, so we’re in trouble unless it’s resolved,” an official of the division said.

On Saturday, Twitter introduced the upper limit of 600 per day on the number of posts unverified users can view. As the owner of the platform, Elon Musk, said the limit was temporary, the limit was eased later.

In the central prefecture of Nagano, when a strong typhoon led to the collapse of a levee of the Chikuma River in 2019, the prefectural government collected rescue requests posted on Twitter and relayed the information to fire and police departments.

“On Twitter, we can get real-time information from disaster scenes,” said an official of the prefecture’s disaster prevention division. “If the restrictions continue, we could have difficulty obtaining information about the occurrence of disasters.”

Tohoku University Prof. Shosuke Sato, who specializes in disaster informatics, said the view restrictions are likely to affect local governments more than ordinary citizens in gathering disaster information.

According to Sato, a survey of people affected by major natural disasters between 2016 and 2020 showed that many respondents still relied on television and radio for information during the disasters.

“Local governments should be prepared for contingencies, such as the (Twitter view) restrictions this time, and have multiple tools to collect and release information,” Sato said.