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Find, reuse and cite data

Social media as data

Social media content is a rich and growing source of potential research data, which presents legal, ethical and technical challenges.

Legal and ethical considerations

Material may be available on the internet, but this does not mean it can be automatically downloaded or reused. Social media data involves human participants.

You will need to address the methodological and ethical considerations from using social media data in your ethics application.

You should consider the expectations of those who contributed the content, and whether reusing their data poses any potential risks to them. Make sure you also check the Terms of Service from the host social media platform.

Consider how you can process data to remove direct identifiers.

Technical considerations

When using data from social media you should:

  • Check the Terms of Service of source sites.
  • Request data using an API (application programming interface) if available.
  • Do any web scraping responsibly; the website might block you if you request a high volume of data in a short space of time.
  • Make sure you have sufficient and appropriate storage for the volume of data you will generate.