There are, however, some limitations. On the one hand, it will not be available to independent researchers. According to Twitter, the search API will be limited to students approved by Twitter or to “research-oriented employees” of academic institutions. Additionally, Twitter only provides historical data for accounts and conversations that are currently visible on its platform. This means that tweets from suspended accounts or content that has been deleted will not be accessible to searchers. This could be a significant barrier for people who study disinformation, extremism, hate speech, or other areas where content often breaks Twitter rules.
It also means that researchers will not, for now, be able to formally access tweets from Donald Trump’s account now that he been permanently banned. “We have heard a lot of interest from the academic research community in studying @realDonaldTrump,” says Leanne Trujillo, senior program manager for the Twitter Development Platform. “We are discussing internally how we might think seriously about studying this topic.”
But even with these limitations, the new tool could prove to be a valuable resource for a wide range of research. Historically, Twitter data has been used to study everything from influenza at linguistic. More recently, tweets have been a valuable source for those studying electoral disinformation and the Coronavirus pandemic.
Twitter also notes that this is only a “starting point” and that the company intends to develop more features specifically for researchers, as well as resources to help them take full advantage of the tools. .