Troubleshooting Twitter API Application Authentication Failures

All developers know the frustration of finding out that once functioning code no longer works. This can happen when your previously working Twitter API application no longer connects to the Twitter API because of an authentication failure. In this article I’ll show you how to solve a common cause of Twitter API application authentication failures.

If you’re using Twitter4J on the command line, for example, you’ll likely see something like this:

[Wed Jul 08 11:37:49 BST 2015]Establishing connection.
[Wed Jul 08 11:37:50 BST 2015]401:Authentication credentials ( were missing or incorrect. Ensure that you have set valid consumer key/secret, access token/secret, and the system clock is in sync.

This output gives two possible explanations for the failure:

  1. Your application is not using a valid consumer key/secret pair or a valid access token/secret pair
  2. Your system clock is not in sync

Since your application was just working, it’s unlikely that the consumer key/secret pair or the access token/secret pair are at fault but it’s worth checking. You can find the consumer key/secret and access token/secret pairs for your application at under the Keys and Access Tokens tab for your application.

I’ve found that a common cause of authentication failure is the system clock explanation: the Twitter API requires that the clock of the system on which you’re running your application must be in sync with Internet time.

Synchronizing your system’s clock is a simple matter of reaching out to an Internet time service. For example, use the following command to synchronize the Ubuntu system clock:

sudo ntpdate

After updating your system’s clock, your Twitter API application will probably start working again.