Delete Twitter data, or pay $42K/month, company tells academics

Home » Delete Twitter data, or pay $42K/month, company tells academics
Delete Twitter data, or pay $42K/month, company tells academics


Academics have been told to delete Twitter data used for research purposes, unless they sign up for API access costing $42,000 per month …

Background

Academic researchers have long used Twitter feeds to analyze things like the spread of misinformation and hate speech, and the effects of that on the offline world.

To facilitate this, Twitter provided an API (application programming interface) called the Decahose. This provided a bulk data feed representing a random 10% of all Twitter posts each day. Access to this was either free, or cost as little as $200 per month.

Last month, however, Twitter decided that it was going to revoke access to all its APIs unless users paid fees ranging from $100/month to $42K/month. The first impact of this was to break all third-party Twitter apps, like Tweetbot and Twitterific. A more serious impact was to break emergency alerts systems.

Twitter then told universities and colleges that they would lose access to the Decahose unless they paid, which would require an “enterprise level” API subscription, at $42K/month. This is completely unaffordable for researchers.

Academics must delete historical Twitter data

Today we’re learning that not only will researchers lose access to ongoing data, but they must delete Twitter data obtained before the API was paywalled. The Independent reports.

Academic researchers have been set a deadline of the end of the month to delete data they obtained under historic contracts to study Twitter, unless the pay a new $42,000-a-month contract – a demand one called “the big data equivalent of book burning” […]

An email, seen by the i, says researchers who don’t sign the new contract “will need to expunge all Twitter data stored and cached in your systems”. Researchers will be required to post screenshots “that showcase evidence of removal”. They have been given 30 days after their agreement expires to complete the process […]

“The changes to the Twitter API are having catastrophic effects on our research into the spread of disinformation and its harms, the manipulation of social media, and the vulnerability of people and platforms to online abuse,” said Filippo Menczer, director of the Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University […]

“Twitter is making it impossible to conduct the very research that alerted the world about the risks and pathologies of social media,” said Menczer.

Some researchers have said they will have to abandon their work, while others plan to scrape data unofficially – a much more difficult and less reliable approach.

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