Recommendation 5A – Support access to platform data and algorithms for independent researchers
Open, transparent public debate and digital well-being in the Nordic region require a deep understanding of the information landscape and the factors that drive the spread of information. Furthermore, it requires an understanding of how this influences the well-being of Nordic citizens and the well-functioning of Nordic societies.
During the last five years, researchers’ access to platform data and algorithms has deteriorated. The amount of accessible data has decreased, and the labour needed to gain access to data has increased to a degree where neither the individual researchers, universities nor NGOs have the resources, competencies or personal network needed to achieve proper data access. Our democracies thus risk losing basic empirical insights into the user behaviour and working of the platforms upon which our digital democracies unfold.
While the Digital Services Act aims to address this problem by offering formal rights for researchers to request access to data from very large online platforms and search engines of systemic risks for society, we worry that some platforms might attempt to limit access to data-sharing solutions through bureaucratic processes and demands that few researchers will know how to navigate. Furthermore, researchers may need assistance to comply with the demands for data protection and confidentiality set out in the Digital Services Act to gain data access.
Consequently, we worry that formal rights of access will not provide the desired knowledge and insight without support.