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The new Twitter is changing rapidly – study it before it’s too late

Nature: Social-media researchers overemphasized the platform now called X for years. But now, as it rapidly changes into something new and frightening, we risk paying too little attention. “Last month, my team at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public in Seattle looked at data from X (formerly Twitter) to find the most influential voices in the discourse surrounding the Israel–Hamas war (see X no longer offers researchers free access to the application programming interface (API), which allowed us to extract and process large amounts of data from the platform. Researchers now have to pay, and the cost is beyond the reach of most. This was one of our first major analyses without the API — and we found it difficult. It took more than a week to answer questions that once took only an afternoon. We had only partial data, collected from a set of content with high engagement that was accessible through the public search interface. In conversations among our team, sentences that began with, “If we still had access to the API …” became a running theme. What we found was extraordinary. A small group of seven accounts, many unknown a year ago, were racking up hundreds of millions of views each day, out-performing standard news accounts by an order of magnitude and exercising significant influence on the discourse around the war. X’s owner, Elon Musk, had interacted with or explicitly recommended six of those posters, potentially bringing them to the attention of his 162 million followers. Reporting that built on our work revealed some of the apparent identities behind these accounts: a London teenager who has posted antisemitic content, a US soldier in Georgia who seemed to have pulled at least some news from pro-Russian propaganda channels, and a right-wing news group in Poland…”

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