NEWS9 February 2023

Calls for Twitter API to remain free for public-interest research

Asia Pacific Europe Latin America Middle East and Africa News North America Public Sector Technology UK

GLOBAL – Demos and Hope not Hate are among those calling on Twitter to keep the study of public content on the platform easily accessible to academics, journalists and civil society, after the company said that it will no longer support free access to its API.

Woman using social media on a smartphone

Journalists, NGOs, and academic researchers use raw data from the Twitter API to gather insights for research across settings including universities, newsrooms and community organisations.

As of today ( 9th February), a “paid basic tier” will be introduced to access the Twitter API, according to an announcement from the company last week. 

The Coalition for Independent Technology Research, a group of academics, journalists, civil society researchers, and community scientists, has penned an open letter stating that imposing fees to access the Twitter API will threaten public-interest research.

The letter has been signed by 92 organisations and over 480 individuals globally, including Demos, the Data & Society Research Institute, Center for Democracy & Technology, Digital Rights Foundation and Hope not Hate.

The letter states that the move to halt free access will “disrupt critical projects from thousands of journalists, academics, and civil society actors worldwide” and that introducing fees will have “a disproportionate impact on under-resourced programs”.

In addition to calling on Twitter to ensure that APIs for studying public content remain “easily accessible” for journalists and academics, the letter also calls on policymakers to “demonstrate leadership and require reliable public-purpose data access for all to protect this vital infrastructure”. 

The letter adds: “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.”