ethics and legal status in social media analysis

Via Twitter, I was asking the community about information on legal and ethical issues linked to social media analysis. Unfortunately, I didn’t get as much reply as I hoped for. Does that mean that ethical and legal issues are not important for researchers? I don’t think so. Rather, it seems to be an unresolved field, entailing much embodied, tacit knowledge by the researchers themselves, some dispersed information, and lots of open questions.

Maybe it is useful to mention some of the questions I had hoped to get answers to. It’s mostly straight foreword how-to-questions, nothing conceptually or philosophically sophisticated.

– I have a Twitter dataset collected through TCAT with Tweets on ‘climate change’ since 2015. The relevant TCAT instance is hosted by the University of Siegen, my employer. Is it legally and ethically ok (hereafter ‘ok’) to put this data online in an open data repository such as figshare?
– What would be the appropriate licence for such an open dataset?
– Is it ok to mention specific Tweets and their users in a publication?
– Do I violate platform terms of service when scarping content in a research context?

It seemed to be collect the fragments of my search here in this post. Not sure if this is helpful for others, but anyway here you go:


“Rethinking ethics in social-network research”, by Antonio A. Casilli and Paola Tubaro (2017)

Wem “gehören” Forschungsdaten? Online article (2018) by jurist Linda Kuschel

– Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) Statement on ethics in internet research
Ethical Decision-Making and Internet Research: Recommendations from the AoIR Ethics Working Committee (Version 2.0)
Nice informational chart by the same source

– Moreno, M. A., Goniu, N., Moreno, P. S., & Diekema, D. (2013). Ethics of Social Media Research: Common Concerns and Practical Considerations. 

– Michael Zimmer (2010) “But the data is already public”: on the ethics of research in Facebook

“Ethical Dilemmas in Social Network Research,” a special issue of Social Networks from 2005