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Exploring Ethical Trade-Offs in Social Media Research
Organizers: Casey Fiesler, Stevie Chancellor, Katie Shilton, Jessica Vitak, Michael Zimmer
Over the past decade, social media and user-generated content platforms have increasingly become rich research sites for the study of both computation and human behavior. This new source of pervasive human data has also sparked discussions within the research community about ethical challenges, and high profile examples have raised public awareness of ethical challenges as social media scholarship gains greater visibility. However, the research community lacks clear norms, and disagreement often comes down to how to identify and weigh potential benefits and harms. The goal of this workshop is to explore the most pressing ethical dilemmas within social media research, and how the ICWSM research community can best consider the ethical implications of our research and methods without compromising important work. Workshop participants will have the opportunity to shape a set of working guidelines to help researchers think through the ethics of social media research methods. [Full Proposal]
This will be a half-day workshop taking place during ICWSM 2018 in Stanford, CA on June 25, 2018. We invite proposals from researchers from both academia and industry, and would welcome a wide range of ethical and disciplinary perspectives, and topically-relevant/domain specific issues. We would also welcome position papers that argue for the benefit of certain types of research outweighing potential harms.
Submissions Deadline: April 5
Notifications By: April 19
Workshop: June 25
Targeted Areas of Interest: In addition to broad areas of interest, we also invite participants who want to engage with the intersection of ethics and the following areas:
- Transforming informed consent to the social sphere
- Anonymization of data and emergent privacy issues
- Legal implications and obligations
- Algorithmic accountability
- Fairness and transparency in machine learning and computational social science
- Societal implications of social media research
- Research on sensitive and vulnerable populations
- Ethical implications of data mining
- Methods selections and ethics
- Industry and academic research
We will accept submissions in the form of either formal position papers or lightweight statements of interest. Submissions should be no more than 4 pages (no minimum) and can be formatted in any style (though please submit a PDF). Submissions should be on the topic of ethics in social media research, including but not limited to:
(1) studies or works-in-progress;
(2) description of a particular approach to ethics, supported by your or others’ work;
(3) cost-benefit analyses of particular research;
(4) case studies of ethical challenges faced in your own work;
(5) reflection on any of the topics mentioned above, or others related to the intersection of social media and ethics; or
(5) any statement of interest on the subject matter and why you would like to participate in the workshop
AAAI has discontinued publishing workshop proceedings, so accepted submissions will be shared only on the workshop website (or only with workshop participants, at the authors’ request).
Our intention is to make this workshop as inclusive of different ideas and experiences as possible! If you are interested in all at having conversations about these issues but do not have the bandwidth or material for a full position paper, please consider sending in a statement of interest.
Submissions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of April 5, 2018.Also please feel free to contact the organizers at this email address with any questions.
Casey Fiesler is an assistant professor in the Department of Information Science at University of Colorado Boulder. She holds both a law degree and a PhD in human-centered computing, and her research focuses largely on forms of governance online, including social norms, law, and ethics. She has organized a series of research ethics workshops at conferences including CSCW, GROUP, and ICWSM. She is a member of the SIGCHI research ethics committee and part of the NSF-funded PERVADE (pervasive data ethics) project.
Stevie Chancellor is a PhD student in Human Centered Computing at Georgia Tech. Her research focuses on computational methods, like applied machine learning, to study deviant mental wellness communities online. Her community of interest currently are pro-eating disorder communities. She is also interested in research ethics for large-scale data analyses. She helped organize the 2016 ICWSM ethics workshop.
Katie Shilton is an associate professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research explores ethics and policy for the design of information collections, systems and technologies. Current projects include leading the multi-campus PERVADE: Pervasive Data Ethics research project; exploring privacy-sensitive search for email collections; analyzing ethical cultures in computer security research; and building tools to facilitate ethics discussions in mobile application development.
Jessica Vitak is an assistant professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland and Associate Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL). She currently evaluates challenges to networked privacy, data ownership, and ethics in social computing research (NSF Awards #0916019 and #1704369). She has organized numerous workshops for CSCW and CHI on topics related to privacy and ethics.
Michael Zimmer is an Associate Professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (USA), where he also serves as Director of the Center for Information Policy Research. He is a privacy and internet ethics scholar, whose work focuses on digital privacy, the ethical dimensions of social media & internet technologies, and internet research ethics. Dr. Zimmer is a co-chair of Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) Ethics Working Group, and a principle investigator in the PERVADE: Pervasive Data Ethics project.
Join the PERVADE: Pervasive Data Ethics Team at the iConference 2019. Visit our booth to talk with data ethics researchers about your ethical challenges and successes dealing with pervasive data, and join us Tuesday 02-April-2019 1:30pm – 3:00pm (Room 0101) for a playful interactive session to share your experiences with other researchers.
The growing prevalence of data-rich networked information technologies—such as the internet of things, wearable devices, ubiquitous sensing, and social sharing platforms—brings a similar increase in the flow of rich, deep, and often identifiable personal information. These data flows across devices, platforms, and between users, are increasingly available to computational and data science researchers to capture and process. Increases in the scale, scope, speed, and depth of data-intensive computational activities, however, require that we continuously confront the ethical frameworks that guide research agendas across diverse disciplines.
To help the iConference community of researchers address the ethical challenges when using pervasive data, the PERVADE: Pervasive Data Ethics for Computational Research is hosting a playful “Pervasive Data Ethics Festivus!” to provide a forum for open and frank discussions of these emerging practices. Open to all iConference attendees, this session to be of most value to those researchers who use data gleaned from social media services, network traffic, wearables devices, internet of things, and related pervasive platforms.
What is a “Data Ethics Festivus”??
Borrowing from the parody celebration in the television comedy Seinfeld, the Pervasive Data Ethics Festivus! will facilitate the “airing of grievances” from the iConference community. Conference attendees will be encouraged to challenge, debate, refute, complain, and otherwise argue with ethical positions (e.g., requiring consent for social media data, not violating Terms of Service) and infrastructures (e.g., conference committees, IRBs) that they believe are misaligned with the conditions of doing empirically- and ethically-sound novel research. Further, the Pervasive Data Ethics Festivus! will include “feats of strength” where researchers can share, educate, and brag about their successes in resolving ethical challenges and roadblocks faced in the pursuit of their research agendas.
Can’t Make the Session? Stop at our Booth!
The PERVADE team is staffing a “confessional booth” in the Chesapeake Ballroom Foyer throughout the conference where we can chat about ethical challenges, roadblocks, and debates within the iConference community of researchers (either on-the-record with IRB-approved consent or incognito). You can also visit this Google Form to share your experiences (anonymously).
Researchers studying the web find themselves immersed in a domain where information flows freely but is also potentially bound by contextual norms and expectations, where platforms may oscillate between open and closed information flows, and where data may be user–generated, filtered, algorithmically-processed, or proprietary. When using the internet as a tool or a space of research web scientists are confronted with a continuously expanding set of ethical dilemmas.
Participants of the tutorial will actively engage with concrete example cases of common, not so common, tricky, interesting and puzzling ethical dilemmas. Some in-depth ethical thinking and theory, as well as very practical and creative solutions, will be explored. Participants will also have the chance to bring their own questions or ethical dilemmas to the workshop (it will be possible to ‘submit’ cases in advance to be discussed in an ethics ‘clinic’) for discussion and help to find solutions.
Researchers studying the web find themselves immersed in a domain where information flows freely but is also potentially bound by contextual norms and expectations, where platforms may oscillate between open and closed information flows, and where data may be user–generated, filtered, algorithmically-processed, or proprietary. As individuals increasingly share personal information on platforms with porous and shifting boundaries, the aggregation of data from disparate sources is the norm, and web-based services, and their privacy policies and terms of service statements change too rapidly for an average user to keep up. The ethical frameworks and assumptions traditionally used by researchers and review boards alike are frequently challenged and, in some cases, inadequate.
Researchers using the internet as a tool or a space of research are confronted with a continuously expanding set of ethical dilemmas: What ethical obligations do researchers have to protect the privacy of subjects engaging in activities in “public” internet spaces? Which national or international ethical standards apply when researching global networks, communities, or information flows? How is and should informed consent be obtained online? How should (or should not) research on vulnerable groups, criminal or terrorist organizations or hate speech be
conducted? Is deception in online spaces a norm, or a harm? What are researchers’ obligations in spaces which are governed by platform providers? Especially if users’ and platforms’ interests are not aligned? How should we contend with inequalities in data access and uncertainties about data provenance and quality?
In recent years, a growing number of scholars have started to address many of these open questions within this new domain of internet research ethics, focusing on concrete cases and challenges (see, for example, Clark et al, 2018; Fiesler & Proferes, 2018; Markham et al, 2018; Zimmer & Kinder-Kurlanda 2017).
Our goal in this tutorial is to directly engage with these discussions and debates, and to help stimulate new ways to think about – and work towards resolving – the novel ethical dilemmas we face as researchers as web science continues to evolve.
Participants of the tutorial will interactively engage with concrete example cases of common, not so common, tricky, interesting and puzzling ethical dilemmas. Some in-depth ethical thinking and theory, as well as very practical and creative solutions, will be explored. Participants will also have the chance to bring their own questions or ethical dilemmas to the workshop (it will be possible to ‘submit’ cases in advance to be discussed in an ethics ‘clinic’) for discussion and help to find solutions.
The tutorial is organized by the GESIS Secure Data Center (https://www.gesis.org/en/sdc) which provides secure access to sensitive research data and the PERVADE: Pervasive Data Ethics for Computational Research project (http://pervade.umd.edu/). We thus include European and US perspectives specifically, but the tutorial aims to engage participants from anywhere in the world.
Clark, K., Duckham, M., Guillemin, M., Hunter, A., McVernon, J., O’Keefe, C., Waycott, J. (2018). Advancing the ethical use of digital data in human research: challenges and strategies to promote ethical practice. Ethics and Information Technology.
Fiesler, C., & Proferes, N. (2018). “Participant” Perceptions of Twitter Research Ethics. Social Media + Society, 4(1).
Markham, A. N., Tiidenberg, K., & Herman, A. (2018). Ethics as Methods: Doing Ethics in the Era of Big Data Research—Introduction. Social Media + Society, 4(3)
Zimmer, M., Kinder-Kurlanda, K. (eds.) (2017): Internet Research Ethics for the Social Age: New Cases and Challenges. New York et al.: Peter Lang
Tutorial schedule and activities:
9:00 – 9:15 Introduction
9:15 – 10:30 Theory: Some input on web research ethics in the social age
10:13 – 11:00 Break
11:00 – 11:15 Introduction to Group Work
11:15 – 12:30 Practice: Break into groups to discuss several cases guided by the tutors
12:30 – 14:00 Lunch break
14:00 – 15:00 Group presentations & general discussion
15:00 – 15:30 Wrap up
To register for the Tutorial, please complete this short Google Form. Participants must also register for the WebSci ‘19 conference here: https://websci19.webscience.org/registration.html
Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda (main contact)
GESIS – Leibniz Institute for The Social Sciences
School of Information Studies University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee