Twitter to monetize API used for aiding earthquake victims, following the destructive earthquake that occurred in Turkey and Syria, numerous volunteer software developers have been utilizing a vital Twitter tool to scour the platform for requests for assistance, including those from individuals trapped in collapsed structures, and facilitate their connection with rescue organizations.
Twitter is considering introducing a monthly fee of $100 for API access, a tool that allows users to analyze Twitter data. This development could impact volunteer software developers using the tool to help earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria.
The sheer volume of information available on Twitter makes it impossible for humans to go through it all by hand, and this is where the tool comes in. The API is an essential tool for researchers, academics, and non-governmental organizations who use Twitter to study the spread of misinformation and hate speech or research public health or how people behave online.
The move of Twitter to monetize API was unique among social media companies in making its API open and free, but TikTok is also working on it. Facebook’s API is more limited because the company is very protective of the data it collects. According to Sedat Kapanoglu, the founder of Turkey’s most popular social platform, hundreds of “good Samaritans” have been giving out their premium paid API access keys to be used in the rescue efforts. However, he says that this is not “sustainable or the right way” to do it and might even be against Twitter’s rules.
The new fees are just the latest complication for programmers, academics, and others trying to use the API. They say communicating with anyone at the company has become essentially impossible since Elon Musk took over.
It costs money to maintain an API. As a private company, Twitter is free to charge for its tools. But researchers and developers say it wouldn’t take much for Musk to carve out exceptions for academic research and nonprofits. The loss of free API access could be an added challenge for the thousands of developers in Turkey and beyond who are working around the clock to harness Twitter’s unique, open ecosystem for disaster relief.
The API paywall is Musk’s latest attempt to squeeze revenue out of Twitter, which is on the hook for about $1 billion in yearly interest payments from the billionaire’s acquisition completed in October. Academic and non-governmental researchers have used Twitter for years to study the spread of misinformation and hate speech or research public health or how people behave online.
Rebekah Tromble, the director of the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics at George Washington University, used the Twitter API to track conversations on Twitter to see what kinds of tweets elicited attacks from trolls – and what got them to go away – in one study.
The loss of free API access means an added challenge for the thousands of developers in Turkey and beyond who are working around the clock to harness Twitter’s unique, open ecosystem for disaster relief. “For Turkish coders working with Twitter API for disaster monitoring purposes, this is particularly worrying — and I’d imagine it is similarly worrying for others around the world that are using Twitter data to monitor emergencies and politically contested events,” said Akin Unver, a professor of international relations at Ozyegin University in Istanbul.
Twitter had originally planned to introduce the changes last week but delayed it until Monday. On Monday, the company tweeted that it was delaying the launch again “by a few more days,” without providing more details. Kristina Lerman, a computer science professor at the University of Southern California who studies misinformation, said, “No other technology has changed society as quickly and as profoundly as social media.
Having access to the thoughts and emotions of other people worldwide, that’s a fundamental change to society. And you can’t understand it without access to data, access to observe.”
Twitter is moving from first in class to absolute dead last in comparison to other social platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, which are taking steps to increase researcher access and transparency. They are doing so largely due to new European regulations. Twitter, on the other hand, is moving in the opposite direction.