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The disinformation landscape and the lockdown of social platforms

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This introduction to the special issue considers how independent research on mis/disinformation campaigns can be conducted in a corporate environment hostile to academic research. We provide an overview of the disinformation landscape in the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal and social platforms’ decision to enforce access lockdowns and the throttling of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for data collection. We argue that the governance shift from user communities to social media algorithms, along with social platforms’ intensive emphasis on generating revenue from user data, has eroded the mutual trust of networked publics and opened the way for dis/misinformation campaigns. We discuss the importance of open, public APIs for academic research as well as the unique challenges of collecting social media data to study highly ephemeral mis/disinformation campaigns. The introduction concludes with an assessment of the growing data access gap that not only hinders research of public interest, but that may also preclude researchers from identifying meaningful research questions as activity on social platforms becomes increasingly more inscrutable and unobservable.
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Keywords: Application Programming Interface; Disinformation; community; misinformation; social media platforms

Document Type: Introduction

Affiliations: 1: School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ, USA 2: Department of Sociology, City, University of London, London, UK

Publication date: September 19, 2019

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