In 2020, Twitter announced its application programming interface to give developers access to the site’s public data. The company is adding a new feature to this interface. It is releasing new tools to make it easier for academic researchers to analyze Twitter’s data to study various topics, including the pandemic, misinformation, and hate speech. As per the company, it is improving the ways researchers filter the data to get more precise information from public accounts.
Researchers who qualify will be granted access to public tweets that are older than a week. They’ll be able to retrieve a higher amount of data every month. “Our decision to invest in the academic research community is rooted in recognition of the value and impact their work has on the world and Twitter,” said Adam Tornes, a product manager for Twitter’s developer platform, in a press call (via CNET). In the past, researchers have used Twitter data to study a range of topics, including levels of stress, anxiety, and loneliness during the current pandemic. They’ve also used it to check the spread of hate speech.
According to Twitter, the most common topics researchers are interested in include misinformation and disinformation, the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 US elections, and hate speech. While the company is increasing access to public user data, it keeps users’ privacy in mind. It will not include tweets from suspended accounts. Plus, the developers would be required to delete data when it’s no longer public. To get access to Twitter’s public data, researchers will have to apply to Twitter. Only those applicants are eligible who are “master’s student, doctoral candidate, post-doc, faculty, or research-focused employee at an academic institution or university.” Further, they must have a “clearly defined research objective,” and the research must be used for “non-commercial purposes.”