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Internet Research Ethics for the Social Age

New Challenges, Cases, and Contexts

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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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Conceptual Challenges

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CHAPTER ONE

Recasting Justice FOR Internet AND Online Industry Research Ethics

ANNA LAUREN HOFFMANN AND ANNE JONAS



INTRODUCTION

The rise of behavioral research and experimentation by online companies and, in particular, social networking sites presents new challenges for internet research ethics (IRE) today. It has also reinvigorated conversations about respect, autonomy, and consent in online research, especially as it relates to users who may not know that their data is being used for research purposes. Compared to these values, however, the value of justice for online industry research has received relatively little attention.

In this chapter, we revisit feminist and other discussions of conventional research ethics that argue for a conception of justice in research that goes beyond matters of subject selection and distribution of benefits and burdens. After doing so, we explore the implications of a more expansive notion of justice for industry researchers who have greater access to – and power to influence – the design, practices, and (often proprietary) systems of online platforms that are often hostile or violent environments for vulnerable or otherwise disadvantaged populations. As we discuss below, conditions of harassment and abuse on social networking sites systematically affect women and people of color. Consequently, these groups shoulder a greater share of the social, political, and emotional burden of online participation – the very thing that generates the sorts of data that support the efforts of industry researchers. In view of this, we...

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