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Direct contacts with potential interviewees when carrying out online ethnography on controversial and polarized topics: a loophole in ethics guidelines

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Direct contacts with research participants in online ethnography are an important tool to better understand complex social dynamics in cyberspace. The current ethical approaches guiding academic research, however, can be problematic in this regard, creating unintended tensions leading to potential research biases as well as safety and wellbeing issues for researchers working on controversial and polarized topics. The onus, we argue, ends up being on academics to protect and separate the personal information available about them online from the professional, trying to overcome what seems to be an inevitable blurring of boundaries. In this research note, we present two case studies to highlight what we perceive as a loophole in current ethics guidelines.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Early online date27 Nov 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 27 Nov 2020


  • Lavorgna_et_al_2020_AAM

    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the International Journal of Social Research Methodology on 27.11.2020, available online:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 229 KB, PDF document

    Due to publisher’s copyright restrictions, this document is not freely available to download from this website until: 27/05/22

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