Twitter is opening up its vault for researchers at MIT’s Media Lab, and it’s giving them $10 million to try and glean some insights from the deluge of tweets. The team of researchers, working under the title “Laboratory of Social Machines,” will have access to Twitter’s highly valuable “fire hose” of live public tweets, as well as archives of every public 140-character-or-less utterance posted to the service since its founding in 2006.
The idea of sifting through tweets for patterns and insights is hardly new. The company made $70 million in 2013 licensing use of its so-called fire hose—the entire, massive flow of tweets flowing through its servers. Commercial and academic research comes out regularly, shining light on the six types of Twitter conversations, the impossibility of keeping political affiliations hidden on the network, or which countries are the saddest. “There are a lot of people at Twitter who are interesting in leveraging Twitter for social good,” says Roy. “This serves as kind of an outlet for that.”