The social network Twitter announced on January 26, 2020 that it will open its archive of tweets for free to academic researchers. This change in the type of data that the blue bird social network makes available arises from the external interest of academically assessing user behaviors and trends related to online discourse.
In this sense, Twitter indicated, it will no longer be necessary for researchers to pay for premium or enterprise developer access. Now, the complete history of public conversations, that is, the complete archive of tweets, will be available as part of the launch of a new avenue of academic research.
As part of the company’s efforts to improve the Twitter API, the social network decided to open its files to the public that does not belong to the organization, but wants to “build something on Twitter”, or use its millions of data for research. In its official blog, the platform assured, the next generation of the API will help offer customized solutions in order to better serve academic goals.
It was in 2006 that the Twitter API was first introduced, and since then academic researchers have used data from public conversations to study them. As reported by Twitter, academic researchers are currently one of the largest groups of people using the social network API.
One of the largest and most revealing investigations was carried out by the Computational Story Lab (CSL) of the University of Vermont, United States. Since 2008, Peter Dodds and Chris Danforth, specialists at the head of the CSL, have developed a measuring instrument called a “hedonometer”. This tool measures the happiness of large populations in real time based on their expressions online on Twitter. The results of this research showed that 2020 was the most miserable year for people in this social network since the beginning of its measurement in 2008.
Similarly, academics at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany studied how the tech elite think based on an analysis of their tweets. They analyzed more than 49,700 tweets from 30 verified Twitter accounts, including those of Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. In that study, the researchers found a greater emphasis on disruption, positivity, and temporality, compared to the average user. Likewise, according to the differences between common users in the social network, the technological elites deny the existence of a connection between democracy and money.
Although there are still limitations, using Twitter for academic research will help to have a richer database due to the reach of the social network. Therefore, Twitter decided to open its files for free to support these researchers of great social interest.