Social media content can tell us a lot about the nature of any given situation. In recent years, the intelligence community has found these surveillance efforts to be incredibly advantageous, especially when obtaining free web content.
However, without diversifying your data sources, relying on social media content can be a risky proposition for any company.
Social Media Content Roadblocks
You may have recently read about Twitter severing firehose access to social media surveillance companies in efforts to curb the use of tweets by law enforcement and government agencies. This is not a new effort. Twitter has occasionally denied access to clients deemed in violation of their terms of service for years, but these cut-offs were quite public and abrupt.
Two specific companies referenced in a recent ACLU report, SnapTrends and GeoFeedia, had their paid Twitter firehose turned off in October. Both companies were paying Twitter for access to its data and had a service agreement with Twitter. In previous blog posts, we wrote about the differences between the paid firehose and the free public search API.
Both companies relied heavily on Twitter service agreements to operate their businesses, and now the consequences of relying on a single-source will come to pass. Businesses who rely on another business to operate, run a risk that their service or data will be terminated. Any hiccup in that relationship causes a huge disruption in service, which may prove catastrophic.
Where the Issues Are
There are various instances in the past where businesses went under because they relied on another platform. Back in 2012, Craigslist.com sued PadMapper (a service to make Craigslist apartment listings more searchable) and subsequently PadMapper’s data provider, 3Taps (a service for accessing Craigslist data) for violations against its website. Not only did this cripple both PadMapper and 3Taps, but eventually, Craigslist blocked all forms of web crawlers, rendering any third-party applications useless.
At BrightPlanet, we provide content from many sources and try to never rely too much on a single content source. For example, we occasionally find websites which block our harvester, add roadblocks such as a CAPTCHA service, or inexplicably shut down.
Many businesses are relying heavily on social media data — specifically content they do not own. These companies must be wary of acquiring the data with techniques which violate the terms of service agreements. Although you frequently see services or websites violating these terms, at any time, Twitter could track down their API key or issue the company a cease and desist letter. It is Twitter’s right. They own the API, data, and platform.
Relying on a single source of data, especially one with a history of frequently changing terms, can be extremely risky. At BrightPlanet, we can diversify your risk by providing data from many services instead of a single stream.
We exist as a watchful set of eyes, looking out for you by providing the right data strategies. Contact us with any questions you have regarding how we can manage your social media obstacles. Sign up for a free consultation with one of our expert data acquisition engineers.