Twitter has recently announced a new policy that requires academic researchers to delete any Twitter data they have collected using the Twitter API, unless they pay for a premium or enterprise access level. The policy, which will take effect on June 30, 2023, has sparked outrage and criticism from the academic community, who argue that it will hinder their ability to study and analyze social phenomena on the platform.
The Twitter API is a set of tools that allows developers and researchers to programmatically access and interact with Twitter data, such as tweets, users, lists, direct messages, and more. According to the Twitter API documentation, there are different access levels and versions of the API, ranging from free to paid subscriptions.
The free access level, which is suitable for write-only use cases and testing, allows up to 1,500 tweets per month for posting and 10,000 tweets per month for reading. The basic access level, which costs $100 per month, allows up to 50,000 tweets per month for posting and 3,000 tweets per month for reading. The enterprise access level, which is tailored for businesses and scaled commercial projects, offers complete streams, replay, engagement metrics, backfill, and other features.
However, under the new policy, academic researchers who have collected Twitter data using the free or basic access levels will have to either delete their data or upgrade to the enterprise access level within 30 days of receiving a notice from Twitter. The enterprise access level costs $42,000 per month for academic researchers, which is prohibitively expensive for most academic institutions and grants.
Academics Critisize Twittr's Decision
Twitter claims that the policy is intended to protect user privacy and comply with data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe. Twitter previously gave academics access to the API through a portal known as the Decahose. However, many academics have criticized the policy as unfair, arbitrary, and detrimental to scientific research. Some of the concerns raised by academics include:
- The policy retroactively applies to data that was collected before the policy was announced or implemented.
- The policy does not provide clear criteria or guidelines on what constitutes academic research or how Twitter will identify and notify researchers who are affected by the policy.
- The policy does not offer any alternatives or exemptions for researchers who cannot afford or justify the enterprise access level.
- The policy will limit the diversity and quality of research on Twitter and social media in general, as only well-funded or corporate-affiliated researchers will be able to access and analyze Twitter data.
- The policy will undermine the reproducibility and transparency of research on Twitter and social media in general, as researchers will not be able to share or verify their data sources or methods.
Many academics have also expressed their disappointment and frustration with Twitter's lack of communication and consultation with the academic community before implementing the policy. They have called on Twitter to reconsider the policy and engage in a dialogue with researchers who use Twitter data for public interest purposes. Some have also suggested that Twitter should provide a dedicated access level for academic researchers that is affordable and ethical.
Twitter has not yet responded to the feedback or requests from the academic community. However, some academics have already started to delete their Twitter data or look for alternative sources of social media data. Others have decided to continue using their data until they receive a notice from Twitter or until legal action is taken against them.
The company has been increasingly aggressive as it tries to monetize its data. Owner Elon Musk is even pursuing legal action against Microsoft, accusing the company of scraping Twitter data to train its AI models.