Ethics in social media research: #nsmnss tweetchat

Update, March 2014: more from NSMNSS on ethics: NatCen research and findings, Janet Salmon’s research, tweetchat held 11 March. See NSMSNSS’ thinking ethically questionnaire for a useful overview of the issues.

On 17 July NSMNSS held a tweetchat on ethics in social media research, prior to a f2f knowledge exchange event on 24 July (programme).

Two pre-chat blog posts announced the tweetchat and how to join. Nice idea, using virtual prior to a f2f event. I downloaded and scanned the +/- 186 tweets during the chat – some interesting stuff there, if disjointed. Transcript uploaded the next morning, with the advice to “scroll down to the bottom of this post and read back up to follow the debate”…hmm it’s not that hard to re-order tweets in a spreadsheet. And how about a light edit, with collated responses to the questions, social tweets removed and thrown into Storify?

It would be interesting to analyse a tweetchat – what are the ethics there then?

The debate can be taken forward on the NSMNSS Methodspace presence, maybe here.

Questions for discussion at the 24 July event:

  • Understanding our digital identities: What is the ‘case’ in social media research? Do our digital identities and behaviours vary to our offline identities? How does this affect the ethics of social media research?
  • Different platforms? Different ethics? What about the ethics of the platform providers? Do researchers have different ethical responsibilities on different platforms?
  • Public and private data – Are public profiles available for research? What ethical responsibilities do we have?
  • Drawing together key messages for ethical guidelines: Exploring existing frameworks, identifying gaps and additions.

For more see Farida Vis on ethics (video | slides) from the first #nsmnss event and a post on ethical issues in conducting research in online communities (published 22 July). Plus, from a non-academic perspective, Storyful on the ethics of livetweeting overheard conversations.


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