Twitter is revoking rights of access to data by academics unless they pay a whopping $42,000 every month to the tech giant. These academic researchers have 30 days to make their call to either delete all the data Twitter has allowed access to or to pay the monthly fee.
Academic researchers have been on the platform for a while and were in charge of monitoring the spread of misinformation and hate speech. To do so, Twitter provided an application programming interface (API) called Decahose. The API enabled the academics to receive a bulk data feed that consisted of 10% of random Twitter posts every day. This was either available free of cost or at a fee of $200 per month.
Over the last few months, Twitter was seen raising its API prices which disturbed several companies and academics. On February 2, the company officially announced a price hike removing free access to its APIs in an attempt to boost its revenues. Twitter then called for a delay in the implementation of the policy. Users started to face difficulties in situations where companies such as MTA and WordPress were being asked to pay monthly fees, eventually pushing them away from Twitter.
As the situation got worse, Twitter allowed free access to APIs again for emergency and weather alerts but the dissatisfaction among the users persisted.
Unfortunately for the academics guarding the interactions on Twitter, the company is contacting them to pay $42,000 every month to gain access to only 0.3% of the daily posts. Researchers added that the company is asking them to share screenshots of the removal of the data and that the offer does not seem feasible.
It is important to note that this claim was part of the initial contract when researchers agreed to use Decahose. After the structural changes in Twitter, these policies seem to have changed as well and now scrutiny and transparency are not as welcomed as it was before.
One researcher, who wished to remain anonymous, described the incident as equivalent to “book burning” and said:
“There is quite a bit of research underway to illuminate what has happened on Twitter the last several years, so it’s devastating both to that research, and to the transparency of the platform, and for the historical record of the public discussion on Twitter.”
Filippo Menczer, director of the Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University, also emphasized on the negative consequences of such a policy by stating:
“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.”
Menczer also mentioned that useful tools that helped remove inauthentic accounts on Twitter and aid content monitoring have already stopped working or will begin to do so as a result of this decision. However, Manoel Horta Ribeiro, who studies social media at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, added that only a handful of researchers used Decahose so the decision would not affect “people using the standard API or the academic API that went on to be released.”
Academics are also planning to take a defiant approach where they would scrape data unofficially and find a workaround to the situation, although, doing so is certainly more complicated than getting official access by Twitter itself.