Researchers fear what Musk’s acquisition could mean for Twitter research data

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Much has been written about Elon Musk bid to acquire Twitteran effort that, despite significant support from Morgan Stanley and approval from the Twitter board of directors, stands on uncertain footing at present.

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Reports and experts focused on security implications proposed acquisition, as well as Musk’s possible approaches to content moderation and, on a related subject, his understanding of the concept of “free speech“. But another important aspect of the deal has received far less attention: how Twitter’s data access policy for research might change under Musk’s regime.

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Twitter is not always had a warm relationship with the researchers. However, in recent years, the social network has made strides in providing access to its archives at a time when rivals have seized power. opposite step. In January 2021, Twitter stated that academic researchers are one of the largest groups using its API.

Some researchers are concerned that Musk does not share the same commitment to open data access, especially given the sarcasm he has shown in the past about reports that paint his businesses (including Tesla) in an unflattering light.

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Until now, Twitter has been unique among the mainstream platforms in how accessible it has made data available to researchers. David G. Rand

In 2018, Musk promised—but never did—to build Web site to evaluate the “basic truth” of articles and journalists in response to reports of Tesla car accidents, Tesla’s labor problems, and its relationship with Wall Street.

Mor Naaman, professor of computer science at Cornell Tech, envisions a future in which Musk becomes hostile to researchers exposing “Twitter’s problems and shortcomings.”

“I’m pessimistic that Twitter will continue to pursue accountability as a private company under Musk,” Naaman, who has worked with Twitter data since 2009, told TechCrunch via email. “I don’t believe research how did we do on the [former President Donald Trump’s] The Stop Theft campaign — and the data we’ve collected on Twitter and made available to other researchers, used in 12 different articles since last year — will be resolved under Musk’s leadership. Second, I can’t imagine internal teams scrutinizing the ethics and biases of a company’s systems continue to function normally, let alone publicly release their findings.

“If they continue to publish, it will be much more difficult for these publications to overcome the already existing suspicion about the biased nature of platforms publishing their own research papers.”

Among other promises, Musk said he plans to “defeat spambots” on Twitter – apparently alluding to malicious accounts this parrot misinforms and perpetuates fraud. But not all bots are bad, Orestis Papakyriakopoulos, a PhD researcher at the MIT Media Lab, told TechCrunch in an email.


Credit: techcrunch.com /

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