API access: the Twitter change ignored by most

API access: the Twitter change ignored by most

Published on 28 Apr 2023

Is it possible to further analyze Twitter?

While Twitter’s users around the world are outraged by the decision to remove the blue check from verified accounts to reserve it only for users who choose to pay for a Twitter Blue subscription, another drastic and important change is happening without many realizing it.


Elon Musk decided that in order to monetize the social network it is necessary to increase costs and eliminate free access to the Application Programming Interface (API), which allows software developers, journalists and researchers to interact directly with Twitter data.


This resulted in announcements about changes to access versions, limiting the amount of information that could be obtained, as well as the restructuring of existing plans, causing the closure of access for many organizations and researchers without notice and without the possibility of obtaining a new entry, since the prices of new ones are not yet fully defined.


We tell you what API access is and how it affects the new changes implemented by Elon Musk.


API: why is it so important?


The API is an access that allows software developers to interact directly with Twitter data and use it for advertising campaigns, create segmentation criteria, extract trend analysis and conduct studies, according to Twitter’s developer platform.


Access to this interface is also important for academia, data analysts and investigative journalism because it allows requesting and extracting information from tweets, hashtags, users participating in the conversation, among others; obtaining a detailed breakdown of how they behave and how the dynamics develop within Twitter, for further study.


In the case of ProBox this API input allows us to analyze the monitored socio-political trends since, being connected to our technological tool, it helps us to determine the percentage of inauthentic behavior in these; identifying when conversations are being manipulated, if they promote disinformation. repeat the same messages and other strategies used to alter the digital conversation in order to confuse the general public opinion.


Access to the API is what allows our platform to provide trend research information in Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and El Salvador.


API restrictions are affecting organizations and companies globally. Many apps, developers and researchers such as Tweet Hunter, Tweetbot, TrendsMap and ourselves at ProBox are affected by these measures and the new unaffordable prices to continue analyzing the digital conversation.


Why is Elon Musk putting research at risk with API access changes?


Right now the only thing constant on Twitter is change. Restricting API access has been one of the decisions that shake up thousands of investigations around the world.


What is happening is that changes to Twitter’s data interface have led to the temporary suspension of existing access and many difficulties in migrating to the new versions. In fact, these new versions respond to payment systems that, in the first instance, do not provide much information and on the other hand are predicted to be impossible for many organizations to pay for.


As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to analyze the activity of this social network.



While Musk tweeted that the free API system is being “abused” by bots and scammers on the platform and that a $100/month payment for access would “clean things up a lot”, it is still unclear what the process will look like for more advanced subscriptions and various organizations and independent researchers (including us) have been affected by this move.



How much could it cost to access the Twitter API?


So far there is information on two packages: the free one, which allows downloading only 1,500 tweets per month, and the basic one, which allows downloading 10,000 tweets per month and costs $100. There is an enterprise package, which still has no price but a form similar to a “waiting list”, and the academic package used by organizations dedicated to social research is not mentioned.


The developer community agrees that the prices are exorbitant. To get an idea, before the change, for about $200 a month you could have access to hundreds of thousands of tweets.


For example, in the case of ProBox we register trends with at least one million tweets per day; so for $100 we could not monitor even one hour of the political conversation in Venezuela, mainly due to the massiveness of the hashtags amplified inauthentically by the government ruling party.


What is ProBox’s position?


Like other organizations, our access to the Twitter API has also been hampered by the recent adjustments, making it difficult to process and analyze our monitoring.


Even using alternative open source tools (OSINT) to complement our activity, there seems to be no indication of a prompt response to these difficulties. This has complicated the production of several analyses, including our weekly “PoliTwitter” report.


However, like many other affected researchers, we have adapted, generating useful and timely content despite these difficulties. It is necessary to question and warn about how far these measures will go and how they may affect us in the long term. Even more so on the eve of presidential elections in several countries in the region, considering the weight that this social network has in the construction of public opinion.


Remember that in our Instagram account, @ProBoxVE, you can find more information on these issues.

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