[Air-L] Ethical problem in a Twitter reaserch

Nadia Kutscher nadia.kutscher at uni-koeln.de
Tue Dec 19 14:39:54 PST 2017

Dear Colleagues,
we are just in the middle of a qualitative study on the issue of children's rights in the context of their parents' use of social media, doing extended interviews with children and parents in Germany.  I would love to exchange experiences and next year also results with colleagues working on similar issues.
Best regards

Am 19. Dezember 2017 18:09:30 MEZ schrieb "Livingstone,S" <S.Livingstone at lse.ac.uk>:
>Interesting discussion, thanks.
>Below, my concern is both with those who wish to use children's tweets
>and also those who don't necessarily wish this. As regards the latter,
>my concern is that a general selection of tweets, taken as representing
>the twitter public in general, will generally include (1) some children
>identifiable as such, (2) some children not identifiable as such, and
>(3) adults, identifiable or not. To my mind, this renders collecting
>tweets ethically problematic insofar as the likely inclusion of some
>children should be (though generally is not) recognised (unless
>informed consent is obtained) and empirically problematic to the extent
>that such inclusion goes unrecognised and (as is also often the case)
>the researchers infer that they have an adult sample (e.g. by assuming
>that all tweeters are eligible to vote).
>Best, Sonia
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Charles M. Ess [mailto:c.m.ess at media.uio.no] 
>Sent: 18 December 2017 10:40
>To: Livingstone,S <S.Livingstone at lse.ac.uk>; Lior Beserman
><liorbeserman at gmail.com>; air-l at listserv.aoir.org
>Subject: Re: [Air-L] Ethical problem in a Twitter reaserch
>As a small clarification of the clarification ...
>I took the original post to be headed in the direction of wanting to
>avoid using material from minors, and that the primary question was
>then how to to do so.
>Of course, as Sonia makes exquisitely clear, if the researcher does
>want to make use of material from minors / children, then a strongly
>different set of requirements comes into play.
>Legally and ethically (to my knowledge), informed consent can generally
>be given by parents or guardians as proxies for the children - but
>within the boundaries spelled out, e.g., in the documents / frameworks
>Sonia points to if the research is within the relevant jurisdictions.
>But however that may be, Sonia's plea for a child-rights approach is
>course) also very helpful - in part as it points to the distinction I
>mentioned between what may be legally acceptable but what some
>researchers, especially from deontological (rights-oriented) and/or
>care ethics perspectives, would consider ethically requisite: namely,
>whatever the technical and legal aspects - what are the _expectations_
>of the persons in play here?
>There are many, many examples of researchers who, taking the latter
>perspective(s), have chosen to respect the expectations of privacy held
>by their informants, even when such expectations are not legally or
>technically supported.
>Such respect then includes precisely respect for rights to privacy, and
>thus would trigger guidelines and practices for protecting those rights
>for minors.
>I suspect that Sonia has considerably more than this in mind by a
>"childs-rights approach to research ethics," but perhaps this is one
>point of overlap?
>Will, of course, be eager to see / read / learn of other perspectives
>and experiences as well.
>again, many thanks,
>- c.
>On 18/12/17 10:59, Charles M. Ess wrote:
>> perfect - thanks for the most helpful clarification, Sonia!
>> - c.
>> On 18/12/17 10:35, Livingstone,S wrote:
>>> Children cannot legally consent to use of their personal data, 
>>> precisely because they are children. Hence in the US COPPA applies, 
>>> and in Europe the General Data Protection Regulation., both of which
>>> require verifiable parental consent for the use of children's 
>>> personal data. Much depends on the legal definition of personal
>data, of course.
>>> I would also urge a child-rights approach to research ethics. For 
>>> instance, contrary to what many researchers believe, and contrary to
>>> companies' T&C, in my research children have told me that they 
>>> consider Facebook to be public and Twitter to be privacy (cf 
>>> Nissenbaum's contextual integrity).  So my understanding is that
>>> is incorrect below, and that much social media research is
>>> Best, Sonia
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Air-L [mailto:air-l-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of 
>>> Charles M. Ess
>>> Sent: 18 December 2017 08:58
>>> To: Lior Beserman <liorbeserman at gmail.com>; air-l at listserv.aoir.org
>>> Subject: Re: [Air-L] Ethical problem in a Twitter reaserch
>>> Hi,
>>> one fairly standard approach is to go ahead and conduct your
>>> - though probably with the additional step of setting up a second 
>>> database that assigns random identifiers to the original accounts / 
>>> profiles.
>>> Once you have completed your analyses - then the question becomes 
>>> what you need to include as explicit quotes in the publication / 
>>> dissemination phase.  Typically, these are only a few - i.e., in 
>>> contrast with 10s if not 100s of thousands (if not more) of texts 
>>> gathered in.
>>> Whereas informed consent is impossible for the latter - it is 
>>> considerably more feasible for the former.  So one possibility is to
>>> contact the writers you want to quote and ask for their permission.
>>> Of course, this will not directly address the question as to whether
>>> they are minors - and you're exactly right that this is a critical 
>>> ethical (and, in many jurisdictions, a legal) issue.
>>> At this point, some will argue that this is not your problem - the 
>>> informants have read (well, at least clicked through) the ToS and 
>>> that such posts are by a kind of default public and so don't require
>>> anything more than acknowledgement (copyright to the author).  If a 
>>> minor is involved, on this view, ethical obligations to vulnerable 
>>> populations are overridden by a kind of legal coverage ostensibly 
>>> provided by their agreeing to the ToS.
>>> Others - especially from deontological and ethics of care 
>>> perspectives
>>> - will argue that protection of minors overrides any legal contract 
>>> established in the ToS.  How you directly ascertain the identity of 
>>> someone on Twitter while asking for their permission to use their 
>>> quote is, of course, not unproblematic.  But these days, it's harder
>>> to be a dog unnoticed as a dog on the Internet and so it might be 
>>> more straightforward than say 10 or certainly 20 years ago.
>>> My 2 cents - good luck and looking forward to the discussion!
>>> - charles
>>> On 18/12/17 07:46, Lior Beserman wrote:
>>>> Dear  Air-L Community,
>>>> I have encountered an ethical problem which I am sure I am not the 
>>>> first to encounter and so would appreciate your say on the matter.
>>>> I am doing a discourse analysis on a twitter hashtag and I have no 
>>>> way to discern that I am not using under age (under 18) users
>>>> As there are completely different questions and guidelines to 
>>>> research minors from an ethical perspective, I was wondering how 
>>>> other people have dealt with this problem in their research?
>>>> Thank you,
>>>> Lior Beserman Navon,
>>>> Ph.D. Candidate
>>>> The Department of Sociology & Anthropology
>>>> The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>> --
>>> Professor in Media Studies
>>> Department of Media and Communication University of Oslo 
>>> <http://www.hf.uio.no/imk/english/people/aca/charlees/index.html>
>>> Postboks 1093
>>> Blindern 0317
>>> Oslo, Norway
>>> c.m.ess at media.uio.no
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> The Air-L at listserv.aoir.org mailing list is provided by the 
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>Professor in Media Studies
>Department of Media and Communication
>University of Oslo
>Postboks 1093
>Blindern 0317
>Oslo, Norway
>c.m.ess at media.uio.no
>The Air-L at listserv.aoir.org mailing list
>is provided by the Association of Internet Researchers http://aoir.org
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Univ.-Prof. Dr. Nadia Kutscher
University of Cologne
Faculty of Human Sciences
Department Special Education and Rehabilitation
Chair for Youth Welfare and Social Work
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