Obtaining Consent from an Invisible Audience

Obtaining consent is an ethical requirement of undertaking research, yet there is a gap in research ethics in terms of collecting online data. My research project (see my proposal here) involves the mass collection of tweets containing “#feminism” over three days to issue map feminism online. Unlike most other students in BCM212, who are setting surveys to collect data, setting a simple consent disclaimer is not something I can realistically achieve. The vast majority of my respondents will not be aware their data is being used for my research.

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The line between public and private data has been fading rapidly since the birth of big data in 2012. Therefore it is difficult to set an ethical standard in collecting online data. There is no industry standard, so I have used this guide on ethics from the Association of Internet Researchers to draw my own strategy.

I will not store, nor publish, any data which identifies individuals. I will be focusing on collective mass data to investigate attitudes toward feminism. I will post examples below. This is for three primary reasons:

  1. Protect the identity of minors;
  2. Protect the identity of those who come from a sensitive cultural context, or those who may find themselves in such an environment in the future; and
  3. Protect the identity of those who simply do not wish to be exposed.

In addition, if you see any aspect of my research which you feel identifies you in some way you do not appreciate, drop me a line in the comments and I will fix it for you. Alternatively you can reach me via Twitter (@claireee096) or via email (cf207@uowmail.edu.au).

Examples of Data Collected

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Although it is unrealistic to aim to reach everybody in the feminist conversation on Twitter, I will regularly post updates on the thread so that anyone can keep up with my research.

Thanks for your interest in my research!

-Claire

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