Social Media | Human Subject Research Office | University of Miami




Social Media as a Recruitment tool

Due to the ease of use and potential reach from social media, it is common to use social media for recruitment of research participants. It must be described in the IRB application, and the text of the recruitment post, including any hashtags or images, must be submitted along with the application.

The IRB discourages study teams from establishing a social media account simply for the purposes of recruitment. As an alternative, PIs may consider that University of Miami Departments and Offices  routinely have their own social media accounts. Investigators should consult with the University’s News and Media
Relations Department for additional information on social media sites. 

Privacy Concerns

Privacy is the expectation that confidential personal information disclosed in a private place will not be disclosed to third parties. Information can include facts, images (e.g., photographs, videos), social media postings, and disparaging, controversial, or personal opinions.

The right of privacy is restricted to individuals who are in a physical place that a person would reasonably expect to be private (e.g., home, hotel room, telephone booth) or in select online settings (such as private (i.e., protected) social media accounts, private forums, or information posted under an anonymous username). Online privacy settings may vary based on individual site rules and intent (e.g., a public Twitter account will have different expectations of privacy than an anonymous Reddit thread or Instagram account placed on “private”). The intent of the post or expectation of the poster may also be considered when determining privacy. For example, usage of a hashtag in a Tweet clearly aims for broad readership and the user is unlikely to expect privacy. However, users posting in a private group on Facebook would have an expectation of privacy.

The communication over social media could cause a breach of confidentiality by making participants’ data public. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow users to comment directly on ads. Comments could reduce privacy as participants may be discussing, inquiring about specific health problems or sharing health information by tagging friends that they may know personally. Additionally, comments on ads could be negative and deter people from joining the study.