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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 Sixteen: An Ethical Inquiry into Youth Suicide Prevention Using Social Media Mining (Amaia Eskisabel-Azpiazu / Rebeca Cerezo-Menéndez / Daniel Gayo-Avello)


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An Ethical Inquiry INTO Youth Suicide Prevention Using Social Media Mining



In November 2011, Ashley Billasano, an 18-year-old student, died by suicide. It was one among the 39,518 suicides that took place in the U.S. that year (Kochanek, Murphy, & Xu, 2015) but her case was different. First, she live-tweeted during 6 hours about the abuses she had been suffering and how she was going to put an end to her life (Wallace, 2011). Furthermore – and even though her Twitter account had been shortly removed after her death – a piece of research was eventually conducted on her tweets (Gunn & Lester, 2015). Such a study is not unique; indeed, there is a huge interest in mining social media for clues about the feelings and thoughts of people to eventually prevent suicides (e.g., Abboute et al., 2014; Burnap, Colombo, & Scourfield, 2015; Desmet & Hoste, 2014; Li, Chau, Yip, & Wong, 2014; O’Dea et al., 2015; or Poulin et al., 2014).

This area is more than a fashionable research topic, and it rests on a number of strong facts: First, suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15–44, and it is a major cause of mortality during adolescence (WHO, 2012). In turn, those cohorts are frequent users of social media and, in some cases – such as those 18...

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