Navigating conflict between research ethics and online platform terms and conditions: a reflective account

Chua, Shi Min (2021). Navigating conflict between research ethics and online platform terms and conditions: a reflective account. Research Ethics (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/17470161211045526

Abstract

Internet users’ comments in online spaces have attracted researchers’ attention in recent years. Although this data is typically publicly available, its use requires careful consideration so as to not cause harm to the users, while complying with the terms and conditions (Ts & Cs) of the online spaces. However, the Ts & Cs and researchers’ ethical considerations may sometimes be in conflict. I faced such a conflict when I conducted discourse analysis of online discussions that were sourced from a public online learning platform owned by a private company. In this article, I reflect on how I navigated the Ts & Cs and copyright law, taking users’ likely expectations into consideration when deciding whether to seek informed consent and anonymize content. I employed an ‘attribution with anonymization’ method to acknowledge users for their comments while safeguarding their confidentiality. Given the variety of online spaces and research methods, ethical decision-making must be a contextualized process that requires researchers to consider the nature of the online platform and the potential experience of the users, rather than simply following guidelines or Ts & Cs.

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About

  • Item ORO ID
  • 79662
  • Item Type
  • Journal Item
  • ISSN
  • 2047-6094
  • Keywords
  • Ethics; copyright; online discussions; informed consent; anonymization; discourse analysis
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Institute of Educational Technology (IET)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2021 The Authors
  • SWORD Depositor
  • Jisc Publications-Router
  • Depositing User
  • Jisc Publications-Router

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