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Data journalism and the ethics of publishing Twitter data

Data Driven Journalism: “Collecting and publishing data collected from social media sites such as Twitter are everyday practices for the data journalist. Recent findings from Cardiff University’s Social Data Science Lab question the practice of publishing Twitter content without seeking some form of informed consent from users beforehand. Researchers found that tweets collected around certain topics, such as those related to terrorism, political votes, changes in the law and health problems, create datasets that might contain sensitive content, such as extreme political opinion, grossly offensive comments, overly personal revelations and threats to life (both to oneself and to others). Handling these data in the process of analysis (such as classifying content as hateful and potentially illegal) and reporting has brought the ethics of using social media in social research and journalism into sharp focus. Ethics is an issue that is becoming increasingly salient in research and journalism using social media data. The digital revolution has outpaced parallel developments in research governance and agreed good practice. Codes of ethical conduct that were written in the mid twentieth century are being relied upon to guide the collection, analysis and representation of digital data in the twenty-first century. Social media is particularly ethically challenging because of the open availability of the data (particularly from Twitter). Many platforms’ terms of service specifically state users’ data that are public will be made available to third parties, and by accepting these terms users legally consent to this. However, researchers and data journalists must interpret and engage with these commercially motivated terms of service through a more reflexive lens, which implies a context sensitive approach, rather than focusing on the legally permissible uses of these data…”

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