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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 Twenty-Three: Images of Faces Gleaned from Social Media in Social Psychological Research on Sexual Orientation (Patrick Sweeney)


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Images OF Faces Gleaned FROM Social Media IN Social Psychological Research ON Sexual Orientation


In this chapter, I will explore the unique ethical challenges of a group of social psychological research projects that utilize social media profiles and online dating sites to gather images of faces for use as experimental stimuli (e.g. Ding & Rule, 2012; Freeman, Johnson, Ambady, & Rule, 2010; Rule & Ambady, 2008; Rule, Ishii, Ambady, Rosen, & Hallett, 2011; Stern, West, Jost, & Rule, 2012; Tabak & Zayas, 2012; Tskhay, Feriozzo, & Rule, 2013; Tskhay & Rule, 2013). In these studies, images of human faces are selectively downloaded by researchers for use as stimuli in experiments that often ask participants to guess which faces are those of homosexual individuals, and which are those of heterosexual individuals. The images are then kept in databases built to support future research in this area. The use of facial stimuli images in this research raises questions about the ethics of using data that is freely available online, but bound by contextual norms and expectations (Nissenbaum, 2010) about its use. This chapter will outline the procedures of experimental stimuli collection used in these studies, then discuss the ethical challenges that arise in this area of research.


The images used in these studies were downloaded by researchers from public profiles on social media and dating sites along with associated metadata...

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