Twitter Demands Academics Who Won’t Pay $42k/Month Delete Any Twitter Data They Currently Have

from the so-very-transparent dept

Elon Musk has insisted that “transparency is the key to trust” in rebuilding Twitter in his image. He says it all the time. But, of course, under Musk, Twitter has been significantly less transparent, choosing to skip its transparency reports, and generally close itself off. But one of the key methods for transparency on Twitter has long been its willingness to allow academic researchers to access its API and do research around Twitter and its users.

This is how, for example, we were able to learn that (contrary to widespread belief), Twitter’s moderation efforts actually favored conservatives (rather than suppressed them), and that the “bias” in its moderation efforts was against misinformation, not any political ideology.

Of course, in Musk’s desperate efforts to poke the bird he saddled with massive debt until it makes money, means that he turned off nearly everyone’s access to Twitter’s API (including ours) and demanded a minimum $42,000 per month from academics. That’s half a million dollars a year. For access to one company’s data. This is… not the kind of money that academic institutions have to.

The whole thing seems deliberately designed to cut academics off from Twitter’s data and to be as opaque as possible, rather than transparent.

As if to put an exclamation point on that thinking, the latest is that Twitter is telling academic institutions that haven’t paid (i.e., basically all of them that used to use Twitter’s data for research) that they are required to delete all the data they collected in the past by the end of this month.

But in recent weeks, the company has been contacting researchers, asking them to pay $42,000 a month to access 0.3% of all the tweets posted to the platform – something researchers have previously said is totally unaffordable. Previous contracts for access to the data were set as low as a couple of hundred dollars a month.

An email, seen by the i, says researchers who don’t sign the new contract “will need to expunge all Twitter data stored and cached in your systems”. Researchers will be required to post screenshots “that showcase evidence of removal”. They have been given 30 days after their agreement expires to complete the process.

Now, in talking to people (both former Twitter employees and academic researchers) about this, they do say that the Twitter API contract has long had a clause regarding data deletion. But also, that it has never been used in this manner (only in cases where there were claims of misuse of the data), and that the demand to prove the data has been deleted is particularly egregious and petty.

But, really, it just highlights how little Elon is willing to have outside experts look into the details of how Twitter is working. It’s the opposite of transparency.

And, thus, Elon himself is effectively telling you that you should never trust Twitter.

On top of that, it seems particularly ironic that Twitter is demanding proof of deletion the very same week that Twitter itself began accidentally putting back tweets that Twitter had told people had been deleted. So Twitter is now being less transparent, demanding proof of deletion, at the very same time that it can’t delete things it promised it had deleted.

Super trustworthy site there.

Filed Under: academics, api, data deletion, elon musk, research, transparency

Companies: twitter

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