Digital methods in a Post-API environment

Jessamy Perriam, Andreas Birkbak, Andy Freeman

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Qualitative and mixed methods digital social research often relies on gathering and storing social media data through the use of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). In past years this has been relatively simple, with academic developers and researchers using APIs to access data and produce visualisations and analysis of social networks and issues. In recent years, API access has become increasingly restricted and regulated by corporations at the helm of social media networks. Facebook (the corporation) has restricted academic research access to Facebook (the social media platform) along with Instagram (a Facebook-owned social media platform). Instead, they have allowed access to sources where monetisation can easily occur, in particular, marketers and advertisers. This leaves academic researchers of digital social life in a difficult situation where API related research has been curtailed. In this paper we describe some rationales and methodologies for using APIs in social research. We then introduce some of the major events in academic API use that have led to the prohibitive situation researchers now find themselves in. Finally, we discuss the methodological and ethical issues this produces for researchers and, suggest some possible steps forward for API related research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Pages (from-to)277-290
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • digital methods
  • APIs
  • Web scraping
  • ethics
  • Facebook
  • Netvizz
  • Twitter


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