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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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Chapter Seven: To Share or Not to Share?: Ethical Challenges in Sharing Social Media-based Research Data (Katrin Weller / Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda)


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To Share OR Not TO Share?

Ethical Challenges in Sharing Social Media-based Research Data



Within the broader field of internet research, the analysis of user (inter)actions through different social media platforms has become a major focus of interest, often summarized as “social media research”. In particular, the possibilities to use datasets based on user-generated content or user networks from social media platforms have attracted the attention of researchers in a variety of disciplines – including but not limited to computer science, media and communication studies, library and information science, social sciences such as political science or sociology, psychology, linguistics, cultural studies, physics, education, economics, and medicine. Somewhat independently of each other and over the course of time, more and more researchers with different disciplinary backgrounds became interested in data from, for example, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or Wikipedia; and new researchers are still entering the field. Social media research thus acts as a melting pot for different research interests, a diversity of methodological backgrounds, and, consequently, different methods and tools being applied in research projects. One aspect that unites most scholars involved in social media research is the need to get a hold of data gathered directly from the social media platforms they want to study – although there may again be differences in the data itself with distinctions being made between, for example, user-generated content and network data,...

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