On social media data access for researchers

a deeply unfortunate trend in the world of social mediaIn recent months, two major social media platforms — X/Twitter and Reddit — have shut down longstanding free data access APIs and replaced them with new offerings with hefty price tags. These changes drastically limit the ability of independent researchers to conduct social media analysis at scale and study the public conversation. Additionally, restricting third party data access undercuts any claims of transparency made by the platforms themselves, as there is no way for users to validate that such claims are accurate. Although various excuses have been offered for the sudden introduction of these restrictions (a deluge of spam bots, content harvesting by AI startups), I do not believe that these explanations hold up to scrutiny, and I consider the removal of researcher access to public social media data to be a harmful development on multiple fronts.The variety of research made possible (or drastically more efficient) by the availability of bulk public data via free or inexpensive APIs is vast. Finding the source of a rumor or narrative, searching for potential coordination in its spread, and identifying the major influencers and communities involved are all far more straightforward tasks when one has the option to programmatically analyze content, accounts, and interactions at scale. Detecting common forms of astroturfing such as fake followers, repetitive spambots, and retweet networks is far more feasible when one can easily check for patterns in traits such as creation dates, activity times, text content, and use of…On social media data access for researchers

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