Why Twitter Is Handing Over Your Tweets to MIT

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Though the slogan works for marketing diamonds, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the Internet is forever. Your Livejournal from 2002 can still be found, and so can the picture of you from that one night you can’t remember (even though you took it off Facebook).

Now, every tweet ever made public, starting with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet in 2006, is subject to scrutiny by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Laboratory for Social Machines, which aspires to have a better understanding of how information gets disseminated through social media platforms like Twitter. The Wall Street Journal reports that the university “plans to build data visualizations, mobile apps and other tools to ‘create new forms of public communication and social organization.’”

While nobody likes the idea of the National Security Administration (NSA) tapping their cell phones or looking at their browser histories, it seems that Twitter is in favor of allowing the estimated 6,000 tweets sent each second (or 500 million tweets per day, according to Internet Live Stats) to be shared with the university. In fact, Twitter committed to contributing $10 million over the next five years to the project.

Related: Advanced Marketing Techniques to Help Your Twitter Account Take Off

In addition to this partnership, Twitter contributed money to six other institutions around the world -- including the University of East London in the United Kingdom and Japan’s NICT -- through the site’s #DataGrants program, which began in February.

On Twitter’s engineering blog, Mark Gillis wrote, in part, “This is an exciting step for all of us at Twitter as we continue to develop new ways to support the research community….we remain committed to making public Twitter data available to researchers, instructors and students. We’ve already seen Twitter data being used in everything from epidemiology to natural disaster response.”

Deb Roy, who is both the chief media scientist at Twitter and an associate professor at MIT’s Media Lab, said in a statement, “The Laboratory for Social Machines will experiment in areas of public communication and social organization where humans and machines collaborate on problems that can’t be solved manually or through automation alone.”

Related: How to Effectively and Accurately Use Data to Inform Your Social-Media Decisions (Infographic)

Edition: July 2017

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