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Monday, November 27, 2017

Social Media Channels in Health Care Research and Rising Ethical Issues

Samy A. Azer
AMA Journal of Ethics. November 2017, Volume 19, Number 11: 1061-1069.


Social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have been used as tools in health care research, opening new horizons for research on health-related topics (e.g., the use of mobile social networking in weight loss programs). While there have been efforts to develop ethical guidelines for internet-related research, researchers still face unresolved ethical challenges. This article investigates some of the risks inherent in social media research and discusses how researchers should handle challenges related to confidentiality, privacy, and consent when social media tools are used in health-related research.

Here is an excerpt:

Social Media Websites and Ethical Challenges

While one may argue that regardless of the design and purpose of social media websites (channels) all information conveyed through social media should be considered public and therefore usable in research, such a generalization is incorrect and does not reflect the principles we follow in other types of research. The distinction between public and private online spaces can blur, and in some situations it is difficult to draw a line. Moreover, as discussed later, social media channels operate under different rules than research, and thus using these tools in research may raise a number of ethical concerns, particularly in health-related research. Good research practice fortifies high-quality science; ethical standards, including integrity; and the professionalism of those conducting the research. Importantly, it ensures the confidentiality and privacy of information collected from individuals participating in the research. Yet, in social media research, there are challenges to ensuring confidentiality, privacy, and informed consent.

The article is here.