NEWS21 February 2014

Social media researchers ‘should gain consent’

Features News UK

UK — NatCen Social Research has released a report outlining social media users’ concerns about use of their online data for social research purposes.

The report, based on a sample of 34 social media users, explores the views of these users on how their online information is used by researchers. It reveals that some people feel researchers remain obliged to gain consent and protect anonymity, as well as to make clear the value and validity of the research to participants.

According to NatCen, many social media users also “struggled to stay on top of privacy mechanisms and were unsure about the legal boundaries and regulations governing data use on the various social networking sites.”

One of the report’s authors, Alexandra Fry, said: “While most researchers are champing at the bit to start exploring the reams of information available online and via social media, it is a field wrought with ethical dilemmas. This reports provides a voice that is often missing from discussions about the ethics of online research; the voice of the users. We now know that researchers must communicate better articulate the nature, value and rigour of their work.”

Read the full report here.

@RESEARCH LIVE

4 Comments

7 years ago

This is a sorry state. 1) This very important conclusion is based on a sample size of 34. 2) This essentially shuts the door for all sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers etc conducting observational research, something that has already been MASSIVELY debated by experts in ethics. I think the real issue here is education for non-researchers and better standards of practice for researchers who aren't currently members of associations with ethical standards.

Like Report

7 years ago

1) This is a qualitative report, where number of participants is not crucial. 2) The reports to address some of the issues and to contribute specifically to the MASSIVE ongoing debate. Even more so, the report OPENS the door by concluding with a range of recommendations to ensure ethical practice on the evolving realm of social media research.

Like Report

7 years ago

A bit of knee-jerk dogmatism there from Annie Pettit. Did she even read this article before weighing in? Further to Laura's point - and the premise of the report - I've seen much navel-gazing from the industry on ethical issues of social media research but little "voice of the user". To that end I believe this report adds a valuable dimension to the debate and some solid recommendations based on sound qualitative research.

Like Report

7 years ago

Ben, here's a voice-of-the-user report from 2010: http://www.research-live.com/magazine/the-etiquette-of-eavesdropping/4003436.article

Like Report