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ResourcesHuman Research Ethics#SocialEthics: A guide to embedding ethics in social media research (Papers: Evans et al 2015)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

#SocialEthics: A guide to embedding ethics in social media research (Papers: Evans et al 2015)


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“This report on social media research ethics is a part of the Wisdom of the Crowd project, sponsored by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, with funding contributions from the TSB, the EPSRC and the ESRC. lpsos MORI, CASM Consulting LLP, Demos and University of Sussex have collaborated in this project to critically examine commercial possibilities for social media research.

Given that this report was published quite some time before the Cambridge Analytica story broke, its reflections on information published to social media and express consent being necessary for research use, are likely still to be relevant.

One of the focuses of the Wisdom of the Crowd project is to examine the ethical landscape surrounding aggregated social media research. In spring 2015, the first publication of this ethics strand contained a review of the legal and regulatory framework for using social media in market research2. This second and final report builds on these findings, presenting our conclusions from quantitative and qualitative primary research with stakeholders and social media users, and outlining our recommendations for how the research industry should look to proceed if it is to be at the forefront of using social media data in an ethical way.
The scope of the ethical review is focussed on large-scale, aggregated analysis of social media data sometimes referred to as ‘social l istening’. We regard this kind of research as potentially fruitful in the social insight it can be provide, and we are generally excited about the possibilities for this a new social research methodology; however, we are concerned that the guidelines for ethical best practice are incoherent and inadequate. The volume of data collected through this method presents barriers to traditional ethical research frameworks: this new kind of research also fits into the wider ethical context of using algorithms to analyse people’s personal data. Consideration therefore needs to be given to how this kind of research can be conducted ethically.”

Harry Evans; Steve Ginnis; Jamie Bartlett (2015) #SocialEthics: A guide to embedding ethics in social media research. Retrieved from:  (accessed 13 November 2018).

(Reference from the updated Booklet 37 of the Griffith University Research Ethics Manual. Perpetual licences are available for use by all researchers within an institution. Institutions have used the GUREM as the basis for producing their own research ethics manual, as a professional development resource and a teaching and learning materials for HDR candidates.)

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