August 15, 2023 | WIRED

Sasha Havlicek on reactions against public interest research: “Who’s the censor now?”

Non-profit researchers have long been advocating for meaningful data access for public interest research purposes. However, companies like Twitter have instead been shrinking access to their data or making it financially impossible for non-profit researchers to access their API, often claiming that organisations are attempting to censor speech.

With the samples that can be analysed under current circumstances, researchers conducting investigations on platforms have often faced backlash for doing so, sometimes by the public and other times by the platforms themselves. ISD’s CEO, Sasha Havlicek, spoke with WIRED about the backlash of abusive tweets ISD received for our findings on antisemitic content on Twitter following Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform.

“In response, Twitter came out with a thread that got 3 million views or so,” she said. “Musk himself responded with a poop emoji.”

“You have to ask, who’s the censor now?” she asks, referring to the environment in which these studies are being received.

Sasha continued that she ‘hopes that the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which will eventually mandate access for researchers to data from large social platforms, will be a road map for other countries’. Whether there will be legal roadblocks regarding data obtained legally by European researchers under the DSA and then shared with non-European researchers or advocates is still up in the air, writes WIRED.