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Online Extremism and Terrorism Research Ethics: Researcher Safety, Informed Consent, and the Need for Tailored Guidelines

Maura Conway Orcid Logo

Terrorism and Political Violence, Volume: 33, Issue: 2, Pages: 367 - 380

Swansea University Author: Maura Conway Orcid Logo

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Abstract

This article reflects on two core issues of human subjects’ research ethics and how they play out for online extremism and terrorism researchers. Medical research ethics, on which social science research ethics are based, centers the protection of research subjects, but what of the protection of res...

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Published in: Terrorism and Political Violence
ISSN: 0954-6553 1556-1836
Published: Informa UK Limited 2021
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa62901
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Abstract: This article reflects on two core issues of human subjects’ research ethics and how they play out for online extremism and terrorism researchers. Medical research ethics, on which social science research ethics are based, centers the protection of research subjects, but what of the protection of researchers? Greater attention to researcher safety, including online security and privacy and mental and emotional wellbeing, is called for herein. Researching hostile or dangerous communities does not, on the other hand, exempt us from our responsibilities to protect our research subjects, which is generally ensured via informed consent. This is complicated in data-intensive research settings, especially with the former type of communities, however. Also grappled with in this article therefore are the pros and cons of waived consent and deception and the allied issue of prevention of harm to subjects in online extremism and terrorism research. The best path forward it is argued—besides talking through the diversity of ethical issues arising in online extremism and terrorism research and committing our thinking and decision-making around them to paper to a much greater extent than we have done to-date—may be development of ethics guidelines tailored to our sub-field.
Keywords: Harm; wellbeing; deception; human subjects; review; best practice
College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Funders: This work was supported by the European Union’s Framework Programme 7 (EU FP7) under Grant 312827 (i.e. VOX- Pol) and Swansea University’s Legal Innovation Lab Wales, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh government under Grant 82123.
Issue: 2
Start Page: 367
End Page: 380