Platform Researcher Access Tools & The Brussels Effect

Anna Lenhart is a Policy Fellow at the Institute for Data Democracy and Politics at The George Washington University. Prior to that she served as a Technology Policy Advisor in the US House of Representatives. Shutterstock X (formerly Twitter) sued the Center for Countering Digital Hate for “improperly” accessing data. Meta is planning to shut down Crowdtangle. TikTok’s Researcher API is lackluster. For those paying attention to AI auditing and internet research in the US, this series of discouraging headlines has led to a sense of desperation. Fortunately, in recent months, this desperation has often been followed by a few hopeful murmurs: “…what about Europe?” As Europe moves forward with the Digital Services Act and the Code of Practice on Disinformation, platforms are starting to announce new tools and programs for researchers along with changes and updates to existing programs. Google recently released an application for records requests, and Meta is inviting researchers to apply for their Content Library API.  What remains unclear is how these announcements will impact US research and researchers globally. Europe is traditionally ahead of the US on policies regarding consumer protection, which often leads to a “Brussels Effect,” or a phenomenon in which companies make changes to comply with EU law and extend those changes to consumers around the world. The challenge with transparency mandates is that they do not necessitate a change to the underlying products–we can’t assume the disclosure tools platforms are deploying will have global reach.  To track the impact of Europe’s…Platform Researcher Access Tools & The Brussels Effect