‘Scraping’ Reddit posts for academic research? Addressing some blurred lines of consent in growing internet-based research trend during the time of Covid-19

‘Scraping’ Reddit posts for academic research? Addressing some blurred lines of consent in growing internet-based research trend during the time of Covid-19
Research Article
Nicholas Norman Adams
International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 18 August 2022
Abstract
The global scale of Covid-19 has constrained academics from conducting much person-facing research. Reactively, trend is increasing for digital-based methodologies capturing already existing online data. Scholars often ‘scrape’ user-postings from internet forums using coding algorithms and text capture tools, before analysing data, drawing conclusions and publishing findings. The online social news aggregation and discussion website Reddit is a particularly rich source of data for researchers. The public nature of Reddit materials may suggest rationale for user-data to be replicated, analysed and archived; indefinitely and in multiple locations, for scholarly research. However, this position overlooks several key ethical considerations. This paper presents an overview and explanation of Reddit, followed by an exploration of studies that use Reddit-acquired data. Arising ethical issues are discussed, and solutions to salient dilemmas presented. This is to enhance awareness of potential problems and improve protections for those whose data is unknowingly used for research.

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