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Elon Musk Allows EU Researchers Access to X for Data Study

Elon Musk-owned X appears to have silently complied with a crucial legal requirement in the European Union. This obligation necessitates larger platforms (VLOPs) to grant researchers access to data for the study of systemic risks associated with the use of their services. These risks include issues such as disinformation, child safety, gender-based violence, and mental health concerns.

X, previously known as Twitter, was classified as a VLOP under the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) in April. This designation subjects it to additional rules aimed at ensuring algorithmic accountability through transparency measures on larger platforms.

EU researchers can now apply for access to study X’s data by filling out a web form available on this page on its developer platform.

The announcement was made by Mathias Vermeulen, the director of data rights agency AWO, who tweeted a guide on how to apply for access.

While it’s unclear if any researchers have been granted data access, EU regulators are likely to monitor the situation closely.

Contrary to his previous actions, Musk is now allowing a gradual opening of access for regional researchers. Since taking over the social media platform, Musk has implemented changes that have made it more difficult for users to discern truth from falsehoods. These changes, including imposing fees for account verification and removing labels from state-affiliated outlets in autocracies, have facilitated the spread of disinformation and other problematic content.

The impact of the EU’s DSA seems to be influencing the dynamics of Musk’s power as a platform owner. It is now possible for EU-based researchers to bypass Musk’s previous restrictions on data access and obtain a consistent flow of data from X, provided they meet the DSA’s criteria. Failure to comply with these criteria risks enforcement action and potential fines by the European Commission, amounting to up to 6% of global annual turnover under the DSA.

The web form for applicants requires researchers to confirm their compliance with the regulation’s criteria for data access. This includes providing information about their affiliation, not-for-profit status, funding sources, independence from commercial interests, and their capability to secure the data provided by X. Applicants also need to specify the scope of the data they require and outline their research project’s contribution to identifying systemic risks in accordance with Article 34(1) of the DSA. These administrative procedures are necessary before gaining access to the desired data.

Earlier this month, it was anticipated that access for EU researchers would be facilitated following adjustments made by X to its developer T&Cs to align with the legal requirements for enabling researcher access in the EU.

Notably, Musk has not publicly announced this particular development to his 164.6 million X followers.

We reached out to X for comments on the opening up of access to EU researchers, but the company has only provided its standard automated response at the time of writing, stating, “Busy now, please check back later.”

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