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Social media use in research

Posted on 26 June 2018

Researchers face complex ethical considerations when using social media data

Social media is increasingly seen as a valuable source of data for research – one which is highly current and immediately accessible. However recent news has focused on the ethics of using information posted for one reason for another purpose entirely.

If you were to ask ten researchers if it is ok for them to use social media posts in their research you might well receive ten different answers. Whilst at one extreme there will be the ‘never’ camp – that is it is never ok for researchers to use social media posts; at the other extreme are those who regard it as unethical not to use potentially valuable data from social media posts to inform research. In the middle, however, are the ‘well, it depends’ camp who may stipulate caveats or conditions on use: “Are the data public?” “Are the data sensitive?” “Can people be identified?”

Su Golder, Research Fellow, within the Department and Gill Norman from the University of Manchester analyse the complex ethical considerations researchers face using social media data in an article for Elephant in the Lab. Read more at