Over the past year, dominant platforms such as Facebook have repeatedly interfered with independent research projects, prompting calls for reform. Platforms are shaping up as gatekeepers not only of online content and commerce, but of research into these phenomena. As self-regulation flounders, researchers are hopeful for Article 31 of the proposed Digital Services Act, on “Data Access and Scrutiny” - a highly ambitious tool to compel access to certain data, but researchers also need a shield to protect them against interference with their independent projects.
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Access to data is an overall challenge for researchers when investigating social media platforms' content moderation policies and practices. Researchers need empirical evidence to ground their arguments and public interest research. Platforms have not only not providing data, but are, in fact, further restricting access. Both platforms and governments should make an effort to improve on the availability of data for research, and, to this end, clarify the law in this space. Continue reading >>