More than 100 studies of X, formerly Twitter, have been canceled, suspended, or changed since the company’s restructuring curtails researchers’ access to its data. That’s a big jump from the handful affected since Musk took over in 2022. The action, which included requiring employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement before accessing data and limiting how that information could be used, has been stifling research on the platform, nearly a dozen interviews and a survey of planned projects show.
Previously, many studies about social media included some form of Twitter data because the site is a valuable source of political and current event information. Before Musk’s $44 billion takeover, researchers could gather much of the data for free through the site’s public API and other tools.
But now, that is more complicated. Many researchers say they have been prevented from using the site’s public APIs and other tools, while others have cited concerns that their work might be seen as revealing too much or violating privacy laws. The result is that a growing number of scientists are abandoning X and focusing their efforts elsewhere.
As part of the restructuring, X has also made it more difficult for outside researchers to request the data to track trends on the platform. The company now requires those requests to be approved by a senior staff member, a significant change from the way things worked before. That process has been delayed and reworked several times, which has left many researchers frustrated and discouraged.
The new restrictions have also suppressed the ability to untangle the origin and spread of false information on the global platform during real-time events. That is a vital part of preventing disinformation from poisoning public discourse about politics and other subjects. For example, in the weeks leading up to the European elections, the pseudonymous Maga influencer “Captured” used X to promote an inaccurate story about aid groups rescuing migrants at sea that went viral. The story, which stoked outrage on the European right, was later pushed to the top of X’s news feed and promoted by influential people on the far right. Even though the story was likely illegal, X did not remove it from the site.
The reorganization at X is another setback for the billionaire’s ambitions to make it one of the world’s most popular and influential social networks. It has also questioned his promise to leave significant decisions, like whether to reinstate President Trump’s tweeting account, to a group of experts. He’s also been unable to revive ad revenue, which he once promised would be enough to give the company “room to grow.” Subscribe to CFO Daily for significant stories, exclusive coverage, and expert opinion every weekday morning.