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Internet Research Ethics for the Social Age

New Challenges, Cases, and Contexts


Edited By Michael Zimmer and Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda

The continuous evolution of internet and related social media technologies and platforms have opened up vast new means for communication, socialization, expression, and collaboration. They also have provided new resources for researchers seeking to explore, observe, and measure human opinions, activities, and interactions. However, those using the internet and social media for research – and those tasked with facilitating and monitoring ethical research such as ethical review boards – are confronted with a continuously expanding set of ethical dilemmas. Internet Research Ethics for the Social Age: New Challenges, Cases, and Contexts directly engages with these discussions and debates, and stimulates new ways to think about – and work towards resolving – the novel ethical dilemmas we face as internet and social media-based research continues to evolve. The chapters in this book – from an esteemed collection of global scholars and researchers – offer extensive reflection about current internet research ethics and suggest some important reframings of well-known concepts such as justice, privacy, consent, and research validity, as well as providing concrete case studies and emerging research contexts to learn from.

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Epilogue: Internet Research Ethics for the Social Age (Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda / Michael Zimmer)


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Internet Research Ethics for the Social Age


In July 2016, there was a shooting at a shopping mall in Munich in Germany. These attacks were accompanied by a large amount of speculation on online social media platforms so that false information was spread and believed by many. Initially, little reliable information was available to residents from newspapers or on television about highly relevant details such as the number of victims and the type, number, and location of attacks; at the same time, a deluge of information spread via public and semi-public social media platforms. This information’s reliability was very difficult to assess, and some of it later turned out to be false. Nevertheless, the rumor that – in addition to the shootings in an outskirts shopping mall – a second attack by Islamist terrorists was underway in the Munich city center led to considerable panic amongst shoppers. Eventually, it was confirmed that there had only been one attack, that the shooter had been motivated by the Breivik attack in Norway some years past, and that he seemed to have suffered from depression.

In an interview with a German newspaper shortly after the Munich shootings, media ethicist Alexander Filipović pointed out how these events showed a lack of what he called “redactional” abilities:

The redactional society needs to be understood as a utopia: Everybody is able to competently...

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