Twitter gives social scientists rich research opportunities


By July 2018, ten-year-old Twitter had become such a frequent data resource for social scientists that estimates were that anyone who tweeted publicly on the service was part of a dataset somewhere. The ease and low cost of using Twitter have enabled studies such as analysing bot behaviour during the 2016 US presidential election; studying how people around the globe cope with crises; and tracking geographic health differences. Between 2007 and 2012, scientists collected and analysed at least 25 billion tweets. Because so few Twitter users read and understand Twitter's privacy policy and terms of use, many do not realise that researchers are permitted to do this without consulting them. In a survey, 65% did not think researchers should exploit their data, whether or not the site's policies allow it, and 43% thought researchers should be required to get tweeters' permission.

Writer: Maggie Koerth-Baker

Publication: FiveThirtyEight

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