[Air-L] RIP Twitter Search API

Stuart Shulman stuart.shulman at gmail.com
Sat Mar 11 08:56:27 PST 2023

The Twitter Search API we have used for gathering data since 2010 appears
to be gone. Is the academic API also gone? I have heard the price of access
is prohibitive. What does this mean? Foremost, if you do research on
Twitter data, back up everything you already have. If you have any Twitter
datasets you are now an archivist with precious cargo. Limiting access to
new data hinders the ability of researchers to understand the evolving ways
in which the platform is used in ongoing information warfare operations,
for example to exacerbate polarization in democratic countries and trigger
future insurrections here in the United States. However, at the scale of,
say a university or even all universities, there is a massive amount of
stored data. One thing I notice about misinformation propagandists
weaponizing Twitter is they like to stick with what they know already
works. While we figure out how to access and study new data we should
meanwhile be aware that the tactics previously used give important clues
about what is coming. I don't think Mr. Musk bought Twitter to make money.
So the concern for me is more about what other reasons would inspire him to
overpay for a money losing business and then set about changing the user
composition, researchers access, governance mechanisms, and other really
important elements. I am worried specifically that the future power users
able to pay for API access points will shape more of what goes onto the
platform and shows up at the top of the feeds. The general trend is
disconcerting and dangerous with proto-fascists running about banning books
and Elon platforming white supremacists and their fellow travelers.

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