Social computing systems such as Twitter present new research sites that have provided billions of data points to researchers. However, the availability of public social media data has also presented ethical challenges. As the research community works to create ethical norms, we should be considering users’ concerns as well. With this in mind, we report on an exploratory survey of Twitter users’ perceptions of the use of tweets in research. Within our survey sample, few users were previously aware that their public tweets could be used by researchers, and the majority felt that researchers should not be able to use tweets without consent. However, we find that these attitudes are highly contextual, depending on factors such as how the research is conducted or disseminated, who is conducting it, and what the study is about. The findings of this study point to potential best practices for researchers conducting observation and analysis of public data.
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The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Ongoing research in this space is funded in part by NSF award IIS-1704369 as part of the PERVADE (Pervasive Data Ethics for Computational Research) project.
Fiesler, Casey and Proferes, Nicholas, ""Participant" Perceptions of Twitter Research Ethics" (2018). Information Science Faculty Publications. 38.