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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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Chapter Twenty-Four: Twitter Research in the Disaster Context – Ethical Concerns for Working with Historical Datasets (Martina Wengenmeir)

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CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Twitter Research IN THE Disaster Context – Ethical Concerns FOR Working WITH Historical Datasets

MARTINA WENGENMEIR



In 2010 and 2011 Christchurch and the Canterbury region in New Zealand were hit by a number of devastating earthquakes, which caused the loss of 185 lives, thousands of injuries, and severe damage to transportation, power, and water infrastructures. Similar to other disasters in recent years, such as Hurricane Katrina or the Nepalese and Haiti earthquakes, Twitter was used as a communication tool, to share information, find loved ones, or connect survivors facing the same crisis situation. Analyses of social crisis data offer insights into multiple aspects of the communication process online, for example, how communities were formed, how information was passed on and crowdsourced, what patterns of communications emerged, and where online publics formed (Shaw, Burgess, Crawford, & Bruns, 2013). Despite the benefits of understanding the situational complexities from a local perspective, immediate data collection of social crisis data was impossible to manage for researchers in Christchurch because of widespread power outages. Similar to other social media data, historical data collection comes with a range of ethical challenges attached. This case outlines key challenges faced in the context of a historical Twitter dataset focusing on the Canterbury earthquakes by describing some general concerns surrounding social crisis data, before detailing specifics for historical data extraction from a social science perspective.

VULNERABLE POPULATIONS AND SITUATIONAL CONTEXTS

Disasters pose a...

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