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Potentially Adverse Impact of Twitter 2.0 on Scientific and Research Communication

USC Information Sciences Institute: “In just over a month after the change in Twitter leadership, there have been significant changes to the social media platform, in its new “Twitter 2.0.” version. For researchers who use Twitter as a primary source of data, including many of the computer scientists at USC’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI), the effects could be debilitating…Over the years, Twitter has been extremely friendly to researchers, providing and maintaining a robust API (application programming interface) specifically for academic research. The Twitter API for Academic Research allows researchers with specific objectives who are affiliated with an academic institution to gather historical and real-time data sets of tweets, and related metadata, at no cost. Currently, the Twitter API for Academic Research continues to be functional and maintained in Twitter 2.0. The data obtained from the API provides a means to observe public conversations and understand people’s opinions about societal issues. Luca Luceri, a Postdoctoral Research Associate at ISI called Twitter “a primary platform to observe online discussion tied to political and social issues.” And Twitter touts its API for Academic Research as a way for “academic researchers to use data from the public conversation to study topics as diverse as the conversation on Twitter itself.” However, if people continue deactivating their Twitter accounts, which appears to be the case, the makeup of the user base will change, with data sets and related studies proportionally affected. This is especially true if the user base evolves in a way that makes it more ideologically homogeneous and less diverse…”

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