The use of social media data is becoming increasingly widespread in ecological research and this trend is expected to continue as social media use increases globally. Fishers share details of their activity online and scientists have mined this content to help understand fisher activity, yet little information exists on the ethics of exploiting social media for fisheries research. In this paper, the ethics of using social media published data in fisheries research is discussed in the context of affected stakeholders and potential causes of maleficience. The legal position with respect to copyright and fair use is summarized in relation to the use of fisher data published on the internet for research. It is argued that research per se does not sensu stricto involve human subjects where no new content is solicited from participants. Text and data mining of social media for research purposes generally receives special dispensation in law to allow scientific endeavor to be conducted without fear of prosecution. Nevertheless, researchers have a professional duty to weigh research benefits against the risk of causing harm to involved agents, including website owners. Ultimately researchers should continually reassess the ethics of their social media research as guidance from ethical review boards currently may be limited and all internet content scraping activity should be conducted responsibly such that personal data is not compromised.
- fisheries research
- social media
- text and data mining
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law