An Open Letter to DiscoverText Users
Recent revelations regarding Cambridge Analytica’s exploitation of Facebook user data and the presence of bots and other malicious actors on Twitter, raise questions about the need for an ethical template to guide access to user data for research purposes. There are also essential and related issues about the role of social data platforms granting or restricting access to these data.
As a result, the dynamics of academic research involving the use of computational user data are at a point of transition. As researchers, it is our obligation to create new tools to address the implications of the shifting landscape that will affect access to user data.
DiscoverText has been used in a significant number of academic research studies. In most cases, our tool was used to facilitate the collection and analyses of Twitter and Facebook data. Our user group has an obvious stake in the future availability of social data.
Dr. Gary King of Harvard University is paving the way for the social data industry and academia to work together to ensure the best possible future for data access (please see: http://garyking.org/partnerships). He has also informed us that a component of this joint effort will involve future RFPs related to social data access for research and education.
When more information is available, we will be in touch with a plan of support for individuals and teams that want to make DiscoverText part of their academic research infrastructure. Our goal is to involve DiscoverText end users in the process at every stage.
For more than a decade, Texifter has been building collaborative, web-based software to help academics sort words, metadata, links, and images found in text, survey, public comment, and social data. As a political scientist, I am keenly aware that this work is more essential than ever. More generally, the sociological and public interest work ongoing (and yet to be undertaken) is immensely valuable.
As ever, I look forward to working with you to create a robust and transparent platform for the analysis of this important data.
Stuart W. Shulman, Ph.D.
Founder & CEO, Texifter LLC