Internet Research Ethics

Internet Research Ethics - book cover

I am very happy to see the Internet Research Ethics books in print – as well as freely available in a variety of digital formats. I am even more happy to have contributed to this excellent volume (if I may say so myself), which details some of the current challenges with regards to – you guessed it – ethics that researchers interested in the Internet frequently have to deal with. In my chapter, I approach these issues based on my own experience with “big data”-type research, discussing methodological challenges in tandem with those of the ethical variety. To be a bit more specific, I argue for what could be labeled as a hashtag-based approach to data collection on Twitter. Briefly put, by focusing only on tweets that contain specific thematic keywords, we can be quite certain that the senders involved intended for their tweets to be visible in a certain context – of interest to researchers. Of course, while such an approach might be considered as ethically sound, it also means that any twitter activity of relevance not including the hashtag under study would not be included. This is of course problematic, especially in an international perspective, where ethical recommendations are often more relaxed – essentially meaning that researchers in many countries have broader opportunities for procuring full samples of social media traffic.

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