Since the launch of Twitter in 2006, the company acted as a sort of heartbeat for social media conversations. That’s partly because it’s a place where media people go to talk about media, but also because they’ve been willing to open up their backend to researchers. Academics used free access to Twitter’s API, or application programming interface, to access data about the types of conversations happening on the platform, helping them understand what the online world is talking about.

The Twitter API is used by a huge number of researchers. As of 2020, more than 17,500 research papers based on data from the platform have been published, supporting the argument long made by Twitter owner Elon Musk that the platform is a “de facto town square”.

But the new allegations, included in the filing seen by WIRED, suggest that most organizations that relied on API access to conduct research will now no longer use Twitter.

This is the end of a long and confusing process. February 2 of this year Musk announced In a week, API access will go beyond the paywall. (Those who create “good” content will be released.) In a week he postponed the decision until February 13. Unsurprisingly, that deadline also slipped as Twitter suffered a catastrophic failure.

The company now offers three tiers of enterprise packages for its developer platform, according to a document sent by a Twitter representative to potential academic customers in early March and provided to WIRED. The cheapest, the Small Package, gives access to 50 million tweets for $42,000 a month. Higher tiers give researchers and businesses access to a larger volume of tweets — 100 million and 200 million tweets, respectively — and cost $125,000 and $210,000 per month. WIRED confirmed the numbers with other existing free API users who received emails saying the new pricing plans would take effect within months.

“I don’t know if there’s a scientist on the planet who could afford $42,000 a month on Twitter,” says Jeremy Blackburn, an assistant professor at Binghamton University in New York and a member of the iDRAMA lab, which analyzes hate speech on social media. — including on Twitter.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

For subscribers to the cheapest package, the number of rules they can use to filter data from the app’s Real Time PowerTrack API will be limited to 25,000, and the number of Full Archive Search API requests will be limited to 50,000. The number of Twitter manipulations they can analyze through the Activity API account will also be limited to 5000 and there will be a maximum of 20 requests per minute for Endpoint Totals API Engagementwhich allows researchers to see how good tweets are in terms of engagement.

While that sounds like a significant data set, it only accounts for about 0.3 percent of Twitter’s monthly output, meaning it’s far from a comprehensive snapshot of activity on the platform. Free access to Twitter’s API gave researchers access to 1 percent of all tweets.

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