Internet based research methods can include; on-line surveys, web page content analysis, videoconferencing for on-line focus groups and/ or interviews, analysis of ‘e’ conversations through social networking sites, email, chat rooms, discussion boards and/ or blogs. Over the last ten years an upsurge in Internet Based Research (IBR) has led to increased interest in IBR and research ethics. Here we present some ethical guidelines for IBR whilst at the same time accepting that it would be unrealistic to expect that any single set of guidelines can cover all ethical situations concerning IBR). There is simply too much diversity across internet cultures, values and modes of operation for that to be the case. Perhaps the most useful solution to the complex challenges of IRB lies with a form of ‘negotiated ethics’, a situated approach grounded in the specifics of the online community, the methodology and the research question(s). This does not mean an ‘anything goes’ relativist approach, rather an open, pluralistic policy in relation to IBR ethical issues (Ess, 2009; AoIR, 2002).
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