Ethical Challenges to Consider When Collecting Data on Twitter


Due to the nature of social media, researchers have taken note of the volume and variety of data that are available for research studies. Due to the fast-changing environment and more sophisticated tools available to scrape and mine data from social media, researchers are finding themselves in unknown territory when considering ethical issues in their research. There is very little guidance available to university research ethics committees and researchers on how to conduct research ethically on social media. The purpose of this case study is to highlight the ethical issues that need to be considered by both the researcher and the university research ethics committee when conducting or evaluating social media research. This case study makes use of a fictional Twitter study to discuss the various ethical concerns. The Belmont principles are discussed as a framework to guide ethical thinking, as well as the Twitter terms of service and privacy policy that all users need to agree with before using the application. Ethical issues that are considered include whether social media research is considered primary or secondary data, if users of social media platforms should have an expectation of privacy and how informed consent should be obtained from participants. The recommendation of this case study is that both researchers and university research university committees should carefully consider the benefit/risk analysis of individual ethics applications which deal with social media research.

locked icon

Sign in to access this content

Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

  • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
  • Read modern, diverse business cases
  • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles