Ethical Framework

Research Participants

Research Participants are defined as follows:

1.     Participants who are invited to be part of the research by the researcher

2.     Participants who ask to join the research

3.     Participants who contribute of their own volition without (initially) asking to do so, for example, by contributing to open media such as the research project's Twitter account. Such participants may subsequently become categorised as 1 or 2.

4.     Contributors whose historical or current online data are used and who are identifiable to the researcher but are not personal participants in the research project's media platforms. Some of such participants may subsequently become categorised as 1, 2 or 3.

5.     Contributors whose historical or current online data are used and who are not identifiable to the researcher but are not personal participants in the research project's media platforms although their data is used therein

In the case of Participants 1 and 2 the online discussion forums to be administered by the Researcher will be publicly visible in order to encourage new participants; however, users will by default be anonymised unless they choose not to be. Whilst they may make their identities known to each other within or outside of the forums this will be their responsibility and risk. The Researcher will know the identities of all participants. Data collected and published by the Researcher will always be anonymised. Participants may require that any or all of their contributions be removed and/or not used within the research.

In the case of Participant type 3 it is often the case that Twitter identities are not anonymised or can be identified. It is also the case that making a Twitter feed private is likely to mean that it will attract no interest or participants. The Researcher will, at all times, abide by the rules governing the use of Twitter. The Researcher will also make clear through a "pinned tweet" that the content generated will be used as research data and that participants, whether "followers" of the account or not, may require that any or all of their contributions be removed and/or not used within the research. All data from the Twitter feed that are published as part of the research will be anonymised.

Informed consent will be obtained from participant types 1, 2 and 3. The researcher will use reasonable endeavours to obtain informed consent from contributor type 4 wherever possible, bearing in mind that their data and identities will be anonymised upon publication even though both may otherwise remain in the public domain. Where the actual identity of contributor type 5 remains unidentifiable to the researcher their online identity and their data will be anonymised.

It is important from the perspective of ethics and transparency that people involved in the research are in a position of  "informed consent", which has its own cyber context. There should be no assumption that the authors of online content have waived their right to anonymity (Paccagnella 1997, Busher and James 2007). Anonymous observation will not be used in this project except perhaps in the Researcher's role as administrator of the online platforms, for example, reflecting on the need to block a participant for unacceptable breaches of the "Rules of Conduct". Pretending to be somebody else or acting in a Second Life character (Macario and Ondrejka, 2014) is not acceptable within this research.

The Researcher will establish the relevant legal frameworks around the physical protection of stored research data, including any personal data, including the circumstances and conditions for judicial access to the data, terms of service and End User Licence Agreements (EULAs) for social media apps and platforms used within the research (Kozinets 2015).

Rules of Conduct

In the event of "hate speech" being used by any participant, other than as clearly reported speech, their involvement in the research will be terminated and they will be consulted as to the future use of their data within the research. Different authorities define "Hate speech" differently, which makes things complicated in a cross-jurisdictional context such as online social media. Online hate speech is a type of speech that takes place online (e.g. the Internet, social media platforms) with the purpose to attack a person or a group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender. According to HateBase, a web-based application that collects instances of hate speech online worldwide, the majority of cases of hate speech target individuals based on ethnicity and nationality. This is of obvious significance to any research dealing with issues of national identity. It is therefore important for this research to include national identity as an attribute of significance in trying to identify the parameters of hate speech.

As each social media platform has its own guidelines on hate speech these must be respected and they provide a robust basis for action in the case of any breach of these guidelines.

The "Terms of Service" and EULAs for online platforms are what the Researcher will rely on in relation to "policing" the project's online spaces; a breach by any participant of the social media platforms' terms of service and/or the "Rules of Conduct" for the research, will lead to a warning being issued to the offending participant with a reminder of the platform's terms of service and the "Rules of Conduct". A second breach of the Terms of Service and/or the "Rules of Conduct" will result in the exclusion of the participant, who will be consulted as to the future use of their data by the researcher.

Twitter RSS Feed
Contact Us