December 3, 2020

Twitter Making It Easier To Study The Public Discussions Around COVID-19

By Mike Masnick
There has been a lot of talk about how this moment in history is going to be remembered — and as Professor Jay Rosen has been saying, a key part is going to be an effort by the many people who failed to respond properly to rewrite the history of everything that happened:

There is going to be a campaign to prevent Americans from understanding what happened within the Trump government during the critical months of January to April, 2020. Many times Donald Trump told the nation that it has nothing to worry about because he and his people have the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus well in hand. They did not. He misled the country about that.

“It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control,” he told CNBC on January 22. “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China,” he told Sean Hannity on February 2. On February 24, Trump tweeted that “the Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”

He misled the country. This basic fact is so damning, the evidence for it so mountainous, and the mountain of evidence so public — and so personally attached to Donald Trump — that the only option is to create confusion about these events, and about the pandemic generally, in hopes that people give up and conclude that the public record does not speak clearly and everything is propaganda.

The battle over rewriting history is going to take many forms in many different ways — and so it’s good to see a company like Twitter making it easier for researchers to look at the actual history of the public conversation during these months.

To further support Twitter’s ongoing efforts to protect the public conversation, and help people find authoritative health information around COVID-19, we’re releasing a new endpoint into Twitter Developer Labs to enable approved developers and researchers to study the public conversation about COVID-19 in real-time.

This is a unique dataset that covers many tens of millions of Tweets daily and offers insight into the evolving global public conversation surrounding an unprecedented crisis. Making this access available for free is one of the most unique and valuable things Twitter can do as the world comes together to protect our communities and seek answers to pressing challenges.

It would be interesting to see if others (cough Facebook cough) would do the same thing as well. How the history of these times is written is going to be important in seeing how we deal with the next such crisis.