Ethical dilemmas in conducting qualitative, public health research on social media: using a study on Facebook as a case

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleCommunication


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Aim:Platforms on social media are increasingly used for public health research. While social media provides an exceptional opportunity to explore communication about public health topics, this practice is not without ethical dilemmas. Our aim was to identify and unfold some of these dilemmas and to suggest possible solutions and ways forward for future research.
Methods:Using our own research within a closed forum for people experiencing suicidal thoughts as a case, we explored certain dilemmas and possible answers relating to whether what is to be researched falls under a public or private social media domain; we investigated avenues for obtaining access to participants in an evolving online environment; how to secure informed consent from participants; and ways of ensuring anonymity.
Results:We provide recommendations and reflections that we hope will offer inspiration for researchers embarking on similar social media public health research within and beyond suicide research.
Conclusions:The ethical framework commonly referred to in health research, based on confidentiality, anonymity, informed consent and doing no harm must be adjusted to be relevant for a social media context where technologies and regulations are constantly being altered.
Original languageEnglish
Book seriesScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Number of pages6
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2024

ID: 378829739