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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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Applied Challenges


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“We Tend TO Err ON THE Side OF Caution”

Ethical Challenges Facing Canadian Research Ethics Boards When Overseeing Internet Research



Internet research has gained tremendous momentum over the past few decades. As data collection tools, research sites, communication venues, and community spaces, internet-based technologies greatly benefits researchers to save costs and time associated with reaching diverse populations, obtaining information, and conducting observations beyond temporal and spatial constraints. Despite these unprecedented opportunities, internet research proposes a set of distinct ethical questions to researchers and regulatory bodies that oversee research activities. A number of scholarly publications to date have identified various ethical issues associated with internet research including the changing nature of privacy, confidentiality, informed consent, and data security (e.g., McKee & Porter, 2009). In particular, researchers using internet platforms to study vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations, including individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (Rodriquez, 2013), sexual minority youth (McDermott & Roen, 2012), and people who engage in self-harm (Seko, Kidd, Wijer, & McKenzie, 2015; Sharkey et al., 2011), have documented unique ethical challenges rising from their studies. Ethical dilemmas pertinent to these studies, along with the practical solutions proposed by these researchers, have contributed greatly to the enrichment of empirical knowledge. Likewise, scholarly associations such as the Association of Internet Researchers (Ess & AoIR Ethics Working Committee, 2002; Markham & Buchanan, 2012) ← 133 | 134...

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