Because social media research is powered by data, understanding what to access and where is rarely an easy task. Our Data Access resources help you assess each platform’s accessibility to data and understand how they comply with the Digital Services Act.
Social media platforms play a crucial role in public discourse, be it during an electoral campaign or an event impacting the lives of citizens. To analyse various phenomena on the internet, researchers have to first gather relevant data that allow for systematic research. Gaining access to data from social media platforms has become a crucial step in assessing the real impact of the online ecosystem on societies. But how can researchers access this data? Every researcher must fulfill certain sets of criteria to pass the vetting and use specific technology offered by each platform. Only after a platform reviews the researcher´s application and decides in favour of granting access, will the data be available for a deep and systematic analysis.
The table above provides information about possible points of access that researchers can consider when designing their research. An Application Programming Interface (API) is widely considered a standard access mode, however, not all APIs are specifically designed for research purposes. Research interfaces or ad libraries are helpful tools for researchers to explore without requiring the coding skills necessary for using an API or scraping data.
The table above provides an overview of which metadata are accessible on VLOPs and smaller platforms. This cross-platform comparison helps visualise the scale of data access, as well as what data types are accessible on each platform. The data availability reflects different platform designs and the gaps in access to data that policymakers must advocate for to ensure accurate insights into adherence to the new legislation.
Based on the data access resources DRI systematically organised, we created a methodology that aims to award points to platforms in selected categories. The scoring system tries to reflect different features offered by the platform for its users, however, not all features are accessible for systematic research (i.e. Instagram stories). The verification process is an especially important part, as it can extensively prolong the application development by asking for unreasonable requirements. Different access modes offer researchers more options for gathering platforms’ data – the more models a researcher can use, the more data they can gather and verify.
More resources about data access:
The Data Access Problem: Limitations on Access to Public Data on VOPSee resource
Decoding Access to Social Media Data: Insights from the CoP Compliance ReportSee resource
The DSA must ensure public data for public interest researchSee resource
What the Scientific Community Needs from Data Access under Art. 40 DSASee resource