WebSci21 – Video Vault No 10 – The Post-API Age Reconsidered

In this talk, Deen Freelon talks about research data sourced from social media platforms to support computational research approaches in social science .

Keynote 5


Despite its brevity, the essay “Computational research in the post-API age” (Freelon, 2018) sparked an interdisciplinary discussion about options for collecting and analyzing social media data at a time when platforms were imposing tight restrictions on their formerly open APIs or closing them altogether. This keynote will explore some of what has and has not changed in the ensuing three years for computational researchers interested in social media data. In particular, it will focus on three key issues that have increased greatly in prominence since 2018: (1) the process of collaborating directly with social media companies on research projects, (2) the ethics of hacked and leaked datasets, and (3) ethno-racial and gender inequities in web- and computational social science.

Freelon, D. (2018). Computational research in the post-API age. Political Communication, 35(4), 665-668.


Deen Freelon talks about research data sourced from social media platforms to support computational research approaches in social science and whether both accessibility and representation have changed in the intervening period since his influential 2018 paper.

About the Video Vault Series

In partnership with the ACM we are pleased to be able to release a series of videos from the most recent Web Science Conference (ACM WebSci’21) that were previously only available to attendees of the conference.

The series will be released fortnightly and will include a selection of Keynote talks and Spotlight panel discussions.

Copyright / Links

This video is (c) 2021 provided under license from the ACM.


Early NFT investor embarrassed by no resale interest

The recent surge in NFT coverage in tyhe technology and financial press was typified by the story of an early NFT auction in which an investor paid $2.9m for an NFT linked to Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey’s first ever Tweet on the platform. This, it was claimed, was an example of how new value could be created using NFTs and how investing in buying and selling NFTs would be the next big thing. The sales of NFTs have indeed grown large though the residual value, and ROI on the resale of NFTs have been much less impressive.

In the interim it has been widely reported not only that NFT exchanges have struggled with growing numbers or fraudulent issues, fake NFTs, market manipulation, price rigging and thefts (ironically specifically the issues that block chain technologies are intended to prevent) but also that a lot of the apparent liquidity in NFT markets (the number of buy/sell transactions) has been artificially (and illegally) inflated by the same parties being on both sides of the transaction in any attempt to give the impression that NFT are easily/quickly traded and that prices are going up.

In what must be considered a massive PR blow to the industry as a whole, the buyer of this famous first Tweet NFT, Sina Estavi has recently tried to sell what is probably the most famous NFT in existence for sale referring to it as the “Mona Lisa of the Digital World” for an eye-watering $48m on the OpenSea NFT exchange (asking more than 16x what he paid for it in March 2021) and was met with initially offers of only hunderds of dollars and at the time of writing a highest bid of just $6’800 – some 0.000141 of the asking price and barely 0.0023 of what he paid for it. Surely a “rug pull” of epic proportions.

Our condolensces go to Mr Estavi who had allegedly planned to donate about $25m of the expected proceeds to charity though we think he has badly mis-judged what he has purchased. While he claims this NFT is the “Mona Lisa of the Digital World” – something which would indeed be priceless, surely what he has actually bought is an NFT for a photo of the Mona Lisa which can be bought in any gift shop for a few dollars or downloaded from the Web for free. 

Perhaps more correctly he bought $2.9m of attention/publicity for himself and the new NFT exchange he is launching whilst the NFT that remains behind when the news stories and buzz are forgotten actually captures very little inherent value beyond the attention and novelty they generate. Who was the second woman to fly solo across the Atlantic? The second athelete to break a 4-minute mile? No-one remembers and I suspect the the second person to own this NFT might be equally forgetable.

Perhaps NFTs are becoming a new currency of the “attention economy” joining subscribers, likes and upvotes. In any case potential investors must now surely be ultra-careful about certificates pointing to notional assets that are hard (impossible) to differentiate from the free alternatives.

Elon Musk to acquire Twitter for $44bn

Despite claiming in a recent interview that “technically” he could afford to purchase Twitter personally, Musk has chosen instead to fund the $44bn (£34.5bn) takeover with $21bn of his own money plus debt structures.

The threatened poison pill response from the Twitter board appears to have been ineffective in the light of threatened legal action by Musk against the board members who, surprisingly, own virtually no Twitter stock themselves leaving themselves open to serious fiduciary malpractice suits if they had not entertained Musk’s offer as being of major benefit to the shareholders.  

Musk had publicly offered to “save $3m a year” on Twitters bottom line by not paying any board members (Musk himslef takes no salary for any of his management roles) and so it remains unclear whether the current board will simply disolve, whether founder Jack Dorsey (a friend of Musk) will now remain and who will steer the company in the short term. Musk will appear at an employees meeting to handle questions in the coming days/weeks.

Musk has made much of the need for a free speech platform for the world as a whole – calling it “the bedrock of a functioning democracy” even if that free speech may be negative or oppose our own views. He is known to prefer “timeouts” to lifetime bans similar to the one imposed on ex-president Trump.

“I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means,” he tweeted on Monday.

One critic (Robert Reich former US Secretary of Labor) alleged in the Guardian that Musk had bought Twitter “to preserve his own free speech and not free specch for other people” and so we will need to wait to see what free speech means under a new Twitter and whether Musk can live up to his ambitions for a better Twitter.

Spring 2022 Newsletter

Spring Issue: 2022

In this issue …

AI & Facial Recognition in the News – Jim Hendler
Privacy and the Individual – Kieron O’Hara
In Conversation with Bill Thompson
Recent Publications
Upcoming events – WebSci’22

AI & Facial Recognition in the News
Jim Hendler

Jim Hendler, a long-time WST Trustee and AI expert, has recently spoken of his concerns around the use of facial recognition in government departments including the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). His original article appeared in theconversation.com.

The IRS’s move is aimed at cutting down on identity theft, a crime that affects millions of Americans. The IRS, in particular, has reported a number of tax filings from people claiming to be others, and fraud in many of the programs that were administered as part of the American Relief Plan has been a major concern to the government.

The IRS decision has prompted a backlash, in part over concerns about requiring citizens to use facial recognition technology and in part over difficulties some people have had in using the system, particularly with some state agencies that provide unemployment benefits. The reaction has prompted the IRS to revisit its decision.

Read the full article here

Privacy and the Individual
Kieron O’Hara

In the first of a new WST White Paper series, Web Scientist and Author Kieron O’Hara looks at two approaches to securing rights for the individual through technical and legal/procedural means.

Law has granted individuals some rights over the use of data about them, but data protection rights have not redressed the balance between the individual and the tech giants. A number of approaches aim to augment personal rights to allow individuals to police their own information space, facilitating informational self-determination.

This reports reviews this approach to privacy protection, explaining how controls have generally been conceived either as the use of technology to aid individuals in this policing task, or the creation of further legal instruments to augment their powers. It focuses on two recent attempts to secure or support data protection rights, one using technology and the other the law. The former is called Solid, a decentralised platform for linked data, while the latter is a novel application of trust law to develop data trusts in which individuals’ data is managed by a trustee with the individuals as beneficiaries.

The report argues that structural impediments make it hard for thriving, diverse ecosystems of Solid apps or data trusts to achieve critical mass – a problem that has traditionally haunted this empowering approach.

Read the full article

In Conversation with Bill Thompson

What do you get when you mix Philosophy, Applied Psychology, AI, Political activism and Unix programming with the Web?

In conversation this time is well-known BBC journalist, author and technology pundit Bill Thompson, who is surely an obvious candidate for the titles of both renaissance man and Web Scientist. He recently joined the WST Board of Trustees and we are delighted to welcome him. Ian Brown sat down to find out a little more about Bill’s road from Philosophy to Web Science and why he has been “thinking about the way the network is changing the world”.

Bill Thompson

Recent Publications

We round up some notable recent books. Hopefully you’ve submitted a paper and we wish you the best of luck in winning a best paper award at WebSci’22!

Hannes ­Werthner, Erich ­Prem, Edward­ A.­ Lee, Carlo ­Ghezzi­­­, Editors, Perspectives on Digital Humanism (Springer 2022). Open access collection of papers, including pieces by WSTNet authors, on the relation between human and machine, covering topics such as controlling AI, participation and democracy, the ethics of technology, the arts, fairness, the power of platforms, education, geopolitics and work.

Sheera Frenkel & Cecilia Kang, An Ugly Truth (Bridge Street Press 2021). Exposes the ruthlessness of Facebook’s growth strategy.

Kate Crawford, Atlas of AI (Yale University Press 2021). How AI is changing the world’s geography (largely for the worse), as a technology of extraction.

Find out more

Upcoming Events

The ACM Web Science Conference will run from 26th-29th June at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona and online.

ACM WebSci’22 will be co-located with the ACM Hypertext Conference and the ACM UMAP Conference.

Keep an eye out for updates/notifications on Facebook and using the Twitter hashtags #websci22 #websciconf and #webscience.

WebSci’22 Conference Site

If you missed WebSci’21 then click below for the highlight reel and catchup with selected presentations in our series “From the Video Vault”.

WebSci’21 Highlights
Video Vault


Thank you as always for subscribing to the WST Newsletter. We look forward to seeing you in the next edition. If you have any events, courses and news that you would like to share across the WST network please do get in touch via email using: info@webscience.org.

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WebSci’22 Registration is open

14th ACM Web Science Conference 2022 (WebSci’22)
26-29 June, 2022
Hybrid conference: Barcelona, Spain, and online (co-located with Hypertext 2022 and UMAP 2022 )

This year, the ACM Web Science Conference will run in hybrid mode. Both online and in-person presentations will be streamed, and most of the activities will be set up to increase the experience for in-person interaction.

The WebSci’22 conference organizers seek to foster an accessible and inclusive conference. They recognize that ACM WebSci’22 attendees have differing abilities to pay, and have instituted a tiered pricing program to accommodate different financial needs.

For more information and to register go to