Ethical guidelines exist to protect the research participant from harm, yet until relatively recently, the notion of “harm” coming to a virtual research participant was an issue that many scholars new to the online space were unaware of, or believed could be solved by using an online pseudonym in place of an offline identity. There were features of online life that were considered problematic for ethics committees – for example, how to gain consent, how to ensure that the information about the participant was true and correct, and how to ensure that the identity presented to the research is true and accurate – but in general, these were considered within the contexts of existing offline ethical protocols and new formulations specific to the online participant were rare or overlooked.

Aleks Krotoski, guest-editing the most recent edition of the International Journal of Internet Research Ethics, on research ethics in online communities. (PDF of the issue)

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