RESEARCH ETHICS PRACTICES IN A CHANGING SOCIAL MEDIA LANDSCAPE
Keywords:social media research, ethics, research practice, expert interviews
In our work we study practical approaches to internet research ethics with a logitudinal perspective. We have interviewed more than 40 social media researchers in 2013-2014 using a semi-structured qualitative interview approach. From these interviews we gained insights into the challenges of everyday research practices at the various stages of the research process, as well as into motivations for specific approaches and critical reflections on research design and decision making, particularly concerning research ethics. At the end of 2019 we started re-interviewing the participants in our study and will continue to do so over the next months. In addition to questions about the details of everyday data work and the rationales behind (ethical) decision making, we are asking participants what has changed in the way they conduct research with social media. Based on our interviews as well as the ongoing discussions of Internet Research Ethics in the community, this paper focuses on the ethical dimensions of social media research practices and how they have evolved over the past years. Between our two interview periods, the social media landscape has witnessed several changes, including incidents like the "Cambridge Analytica scandal", which have also created ethical discussions in the broader public. By asking researchers about their everyday work, our research contributes to a look behind the scenes of "life as an internet researcher", as phrased in the list of topics in the call for papers.