Experts are wary of what the acquisition of Elon Musk means for Twitter Data Researchers.
Despite the great support and the approval of Twitter’s board of directors, much has been written about the bid to buy Twitter for the currently volatile venture of Elon Musk. Reporting and experts focus on understanding the security implications of the proposed acquisition, a maskable approach to content moderation, and the concept of “free speech,” a related topic. However, another important aspect of this transaction has received less attention. That’s how Twitter data researchers’ access policy will change under the Musk administration.
Twitter does not always have a comfortable relationship with data researchers. However, in recent years, social networks have made progress in providing access to archives as competitors take the opposite step. Twitter Data Researchers claimed to be one of the largest groups of academic researchers using the API.
Twitter Data Researchers are concerned that Mask does not share the same commitment to open data access. Especially the pain shown in the past about reports of drawing his ventures (including Tesla) in an unpleasant light. Musk promised to create a website to evaluate articles and journalists come truths in response to reports of Tesla’s car accidents, Tesla’s labor problems, and its relationship with Wall Street. But didn’t create it in the end.
Envisions a future in which Musk will be hostile to Twitter data researchers who uncover the challenges and shortcomings of Twitter. It’s pessimistic that Twitter continues to pursue accountability as a private company under the mask. Don’t think there’s any research done on Donald Trump’s Stop the Steal campaign. Data collected from Twitter and made available to other researchers in 12 different newspapers were used. It’s difficult to imagine an internal team checking the ethics and prejudices of the corporate system, rather than publishing the results, would continue to work.
Musk has said that he has plans to defeat “spambots” on Twitter, alluding to malicious accounts that perpetrate fraud by turning false information into parrots. However, not all bots are malicious. For example, some researchers are using automated accounts to study whether people’s attention to accuracy can improve the quality of messages shared on Twitter.
It’s unclear how the acquisition will affect researchers’ data access, as it’s not clear what will change on the platform. So far, Mask’s comments have not focused on data collection. Of course, deleting an automated account limits the ability of researchers to perform field experiments on the platform. But frankly, we don’t think this is the final action to be taken, as automated activities via the API are important to trade.
Data Researchers also share Mask’s intent regarding Twitter Data Researchers and academic research that relies on Twitter data. Tesla is a prime example of the track record of “stopping critics” and “decreased transparency” masks at other companies. The company, which disbanded its public relations department in 2020, has never offered data to prove Musk’s claim that cars driven on Autopilot, Tesla’s proprietary driver-assistance system, are safer than those driven by human drivers. Later automakers responded to whistleblowers by dismissing, censoring, proceedings, and even hiring private detectives.
While Musk has made a lot of claims about increased platform transparency, reduced content moderation, etc. It’s hard to know where Musk’s ideas and the practical realities of running the platform will meet. In practice, academics could potentially be blocked from using the platform or the API if they publish research critical of the platform. All in all, time will tell whether Musk’s Twitter acquisition is good or bad for Twitter Data Researchers, and there are many reasons it could be both.
Twitter’s painful rewards for accessible data have been scrutinized. Twitter leadership remains positive in the face of negative consequences, but when it was reported that the change in ownership brought to light an idea of headcount reduction while Musk was negotiating a Twitter bid. It shows how sparse the situation was and Musk may jokingly argue that maintaining an API that promotes a negative press cycle is not in the best interests of shareholders.
If you believe that everyone should be able to access Twitter Data Researchers, there is a world where API access can increase. And that’s a positive thing for researchers. On the other hand, given the history of masks being unacceptable to criticism, is the API shut down or even more restricted because the research portrays the company in a bad way? Without them, it would be much more difficult to understand public opinion about these types of life experiences and events.
This openness is very important for Twitter Data Researchers and allows people to learn a lot about how they use and abuse social media and to evaluate interventions empirically. We hope Elon Musk will continue this tradition. If he turns Twitter into a walled yard like any other major platform, it will cost a lot of society.