Elon Musk wants independent researchers who scan Twitter for bots and disinformation campaigns to pay $5,000 a month for access to the raw data they need for that job. Something that is equivalent to throwing them off the platform, since the majority are academics associated with university projects that cannot afford those prices, as several of them have explained to this medium. The tycoon cut off their access last Saturday, but the EU warns that it will not tolerate that this veto on transparency extends for a long time.
Musk warns that the prefix “cis” will be considered an insult on Twitter
Consulted by elDiario.es, community sources have recalled that Twitter is one of the networks designated on the list of “Large Platforms” in the new Digital Services Law that came into force last fall. The companies on that list, “including Twitter, are obliged to provide access to the data to authorized researchers” before August 25, a spokesman for the European Commission explained.
Until now, the decision to allow independent researchers to study the ins and outs of the platforms was up to each of them. Twitter was one of those that allowed it with an access specially designed for academics. For years, the platform was in charge of receiving these requests for special data consultation and accepting or rejecting them. All of that will change under the new Digital Services Act (DSA).
From now on, the networks, search engines or sales websites that meet the criteria to be considered “Large Platforms” (the main one, having more than 45 million users who connect at least once a month to their services from Europe) must undergo various transparency measures. One of them is to give access to your raw data to those “authorized researchers”, chosen from among independent experts in the field and civil society.
It will not be the platforms themselves who decide who can be an “authorized researcher” of each social network or search engine, but another newly created figure in this law: the “digital service coordinators”. This is an authority designated by each State for this and other supervisory functions provided for in the DSA, which must be independent of the Government. Candidates to be an “authorized researcher” must meet the following requirements:
- Be affiliated with an academic institution or a non-profit organization that is dedicated to research.
- Comply with the ethical and professional standards applicable to research, including those relating to the protection of personal data.
- Not have conflicts of interest with the platforms whose data they request, nor use the data for commercial or competitive purposes.
- Commit to making the results of the research public.
Spain has not yet appointed a digital services coordinator, although the law grants a deadline of February 2024. “Therefore, at the latest from that date, researchers may request the status of authorized researcher and submit requests for access to data within the framework of the DSA”, specify community sources.
It is not necessary that this function be assigned to a newly created body, but it can fall on an already established institution. Of course, in both cases the countries must provide “sufficient powers and means to guarantee effective investigation and execution, in accordance with the tasks entrusted to them,” reads the text of the new law.
In this way, although the EU has already indicated the 19 services that make up the list of “Large Platforms” and that they will have to comply with special transparency rules, the ball is now on the Spanish court. The call for general elections for July 23 will make the new Parliament the one in charge of deciding who plays that role in Spain. The concern of the researchers now is that, after Musk’s veto, they have been “blind” to possible bot attacks and manipulation campaigns in the face of these elections.
The new law contemplates fines of up to 6% of the global annual turnover for platforms that fail to comply with them. Twitter no longer discloses this data after Musk delisted it. Taking into consideration the 5,077 million dollars that he entered in the last balance that he made public, corresponding to 2021, he could assume sanctions of about 300 million dollars.
Twitter, the first to be examined
The European Commission has begun a round of visits to the 19 “Large Platforms” (full list at the end of this text) to carry out a series of “stress tests” and assess their preparation for August 25, when they will have to start to comply with these special rules. It is surely no coincidence that the first to go through the test was Twitter, which Brussels has warned on several occasions that it is progressively moving away from the objectives that the new law must comply with, instead of getting closer.
The European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, the Frenchman Thierry Breton, traveled to Silicon Valley last week to meet with Elon Musk and the new CEO of Twitter, Linda Yaccarino, and to examine the platform. Despite being notified of the visit, Musk connected to the meeting by videoconference.
Breton did not give too many details about how the Twitter “stress test” was. He stated that there had been “a constructive dialogue” with the company, which took the exercise “very seriously”. The commissioner also pointed out that “the key will be the allocation of sufficient resources” to comply with the law, a relevant comment in the context of the social network, since Musk has fired 85% of the workers of the social network since he took office. from her last fall.
Right after Breton left San Francisco, Musk decided to remove academics’ access to Twitter data, sparking this new controversy. This is a measure that had been frozen for months and that the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, had directly warned him not to take.
elDiario.es has asked Twitter about the access of academics to its data and if it plans to reopen it before the elections in Spain. The company’s press email address, which removed its entire communication department after Musk’s arrival, has returned an automated response with the “💩” emoji, as it has been doing since early 2023.
The list of “Large Platforms” published by the EU is made up of Alibaba, AliExpress, Amazon Store, Apple AppStore, Bing, Booking.com, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Search, Google Shopping, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest , Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, Wikipedia and Zalando.