Last week, the Twitter Development team announced that the platform will no longer allow free access to the Twitter API starting this Thursday, February 9. This dramatic restriction will disrupt critical projects from thousands of journalists, academics, and civil society actors worldwide who study some of the most important issues impacting our societies today.
The Twitter API enables a global network of public-interest research, including crisis response for wildfires and hurricanes, national security, public health, consumer fraud, polarization, economic analysis, child safety, mental health, online violence, inauthentic activity, including spam and bots, and much more.
Twitter’s new CEO Elon Musk has promised to make the platform more transparent and to reduce the prevalence of spam and manipulative accounts. We commend and support those priorities. In fact, the independent research community has developed many of the most cutting-edge techniques used to manage bots. API access has provided a critical resource for that work. Twitter’s new barriers to data access will reduce the very transparency that both the platform and our societies desperately need.
Journalists, NGOs, and academic researchers translate raw data from the Twitter API into critical insights that inform the public, policy makers, and the company itself. This work takes place in a range of settings worldwide, from large universities and newsrooms to small community organizations. Twitter’s sudden imposition of fees will have a disproportionate impact on under-resourced programs.
Data access is a fundamental building block of transparency and accountability.
We call on Twitter to ensure that APIs for studying public content on the platform remain easily accessible for journalists, academics, and civil society.
We call on policymakers to demonstrate leadership and require reliable public-purpose data access for all to protect this vital infrastructure.
Twitter’s actions threaten to turn out the lights on essential research, innovation, and collective knowledge. That’s why we are standing together to protect the public goods that depend on data access to Twitter.