Ethical and Methodological Considerations When Using Social Media Sites as Data Sources: Lessons Learned From a YouTube Case Study


Collecting data from social media sites provide researchers with a promising method of investigating a myriad of questions about individuals’ lives, relationships, and habits. At the same time, collecting data from social media raises important ethical questions about the nature of public data and individuals’ expectations to privacy, confidentiality, and the right to be forgotten. The dynamic nature of social media platforms also poses challenges for data collection, interpretation, and generalization, including considerations related to social media users’ demographic backgrounds and their intentionality when creating content. In this case study, we provide recommendations for data collection and data reporting when using social media sites as well as discuss related limitations and cautions associated with conducting research in this venue.

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