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Topics: Facebook, Social network aggregation, Social network service Pages: 6 (914 words) Published: August 21, 2013
ETHICAL ISSUES IN SOCIAL NETWORKING RESEARCH
Prof. Paula Swatman Chair, Social Sciences HREC University of Tasmania

Ethics in Social Media Research

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Research into & with Social Media
• The Internet supports research in 2 quite different ways 1. As a tool: for finding & accessing people / material … • Search engines, online surveys, etc.

2.

As a location: for meeting & interacting with people & groups • Forums, user groups, chat rooms, newsgroups, etc.

• But this distinction is not so clear with social media • Users no longer fit neatly into categories • Tools are increasingly being built into social networking sites • The line between tool and location is blurring …

Ethics in Social Media Research

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Social Media defined
Daryl Lang, ‘Breaking Copy’ blog

Ethics in Social Media Research

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Ethical issues in social media research
Elizabeth Buchanan, Professor of Ethics, University of Wisconsin-Stout

• Researchers venturing into social media need to pay

particular attention to the following issues:
• Recruitment • Privacy/Anonymity/Confidentiality • Consent – Age verification – Documentation

• Data Sharing / Data Storage • Terms of Service / End-User Licence Agreements

Ethics in Social Media Research

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Recruiting via social networks
• Traditional participant recruitment is generally “push”

based
– Researchers know who they’re targeting – Even with snowball sampling, participant groups are ‘controlled’

• Social media participant recruitment is generally “pull”

based
– Potential participants can discuss the invitation – and tell others

about it – without any researcher control or influence – Response to participant invitation is interactive, rather than static – And can lead to unexpected outcomes …

– Subsequent posts may modify already-posted information

Ethics in Social Media Research

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Privacy in social media research
Problematic for researcher and participant
• Is the space being • How do researchers

researched seen as private by its users?
– Are they aware they are

ensure their participants really are anonymous?
– IP addresses are (usually)

being observed? – What is the researcher’s role?

traceable – Tweets may contain identifiers …

• Is everything what it

seems?
– Are Fred X and Mary Y

really who they claim to be? – How often did Fred X vote / comment / contribute?

Ethics in Social Media Research

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Consent in social networks
• Adults – consent is relatively straightforward • Links from social networking sites to other, more reliable, sites solve most problems – Surveys (Qualtrics, Survey Monkey, etc.) – Observable environments – Portals / tokens can be used in games environments

• Children / Young People – this is a minefield! • No way of ensuring participant’s age / level of maturity – E.g. are all Facebook users really 18+ ???

• Difficult to obtain parental consent
– And even harder to be sure who actually consented!

• Think carefully about whether some forms of research are

worth doing via social media sites …

Ethics in Social Media Research

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Your data and social media sites
Can you still conform with Ch. 2 of the Aust. Code?
• How secure are your data in a social networking site? – Can you access them as/when you need? – Can anyone else access them at will? • Can you depend on privacy / reliability claims from a social

networking service?
– E.g. is your social network of choice always available?

• Foreign government access to your data (Hopewell 2011) – Social networking platforms are mostly US-based, with real implications for your data – US-based data are subject to the Patriot Act & the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act – data can be accessed by US federal law enforcement agencies, no matter who owns them! – Australians storing data on US sites cannot claim protection under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution (which protects against unlawful...

References: • Buchanan, E. (2012) ‘Social Media, Research, and Ethics: Challenges
• •



and Strategies’, the Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science Webinar Series, New York, NY, Accessed 30 July 2012 from: http://www.uwstout.edu/faculty/buchanane/ Cheezburger (2012) ‘On the Internet, no-one knows you’re a cat’, Accessed 30 July 2012 from: http://cheezburger.com/5830762496 Hopewell, L. (2011) ‘The Pitfalls of Offshore Cloud’, ZDNet.com.au, 13 January 2011, Accessed 30 July 2012 from: http://www.zdnet.com/thepitfalls-of-offshore-cloud-1339308564/ Jacquith, M. (2009) ‘Facebook’s bizarre definition of data ownership’, Tempus Fugit blog, 26 February 2009, Accessed 30 July 2012 from: http://txfx.net/2009/02/26/facebooks-bizarre-definition-of-data-ownership/ Lang, D. (2011) ‘Where should you post your status?’, Breaking Copy blog, Accessed 30 July 2012 from: http://www.breakingcopy.com/socialmedia-flowchart-status Protalinksi, E. (2012) ‘It’s yours – until you upload it’, In Dignan, L. ‘The Social Web: who owns your data?’ ZDNet Online Debate, 12 April 2012, Accessed 30 July 2012 from: http://www.zdnet.com/debate/the-socialweb-who-owns-your-data/10087130/
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