Elon Musk’s recent purchase of Twitter has raised alarms about the spread of misinformation, hate speech and a lack of moderation, causing some academics to depart from the platform.
In a video interview hosted by Social Science Space’s sister site Methodspace, Stu Shulman, a social media researcher and the founder and CEO of Textifter, joined interviewer Janet Salmons to discuss the future of academic Twitter.
Shulman’s research predates Musk’s purchase of Twitter and has raised various concerns about security.
“It’s the voluminous amounts of hate I see in my own research. Also the systemic weaponization of Twitter against democratic systems of government globally,” he said. “Evolving tactics use Twitter trains (tagging 30 like-minded users), notification-rich replies, the ReTweet functionality, gamification, domestic and foreign meme warfare, the idolatry of influence via misinformation, bots and trolls, as well as paid amplifiers of all manner and variety.”
Throughout the interview, Shulman and Salmons discussed the political turmoil which has occurred on Twitter, including election denial, vaccine misinformation and other international conspiracies.
Shulman raised the possibility that misinformation, hate and other threats will become more prevalent in the future.
“What I’m worried about for the future is if it becomes easier rather than harder to do the things that didn’t work but they almost did in 2020,” he said.
He cited the utility of Twitter for academic analysis in various disciplines, and expressed concern that academic use of Twitter will be threatened by a lack of moderation.
“The reason so many academics study Twitter data is because of its availability and because of its format and its structure,” he said. “It’s easy to get data and that’s what drew the computer scientists to it early on and social scientists to it later. It made it amenable to capture and amenable to research.”