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If they do, what are their responsibilities with regards to the privacy of the other participants?
Should journalists identify themselves accurately and state their purposes upon entering a chat room or logging on to a message board?
Is it OK to lurk for a while before identifying oneself?
Naturally, there will be differences of opinion about what is proper online behavior.
Many chat rooms, e-mail lists and other Internet communities have general rules of etiquette that users are expected to follow.
Journalists doing research online might find it helpful to review these guidelines before joining a chat room or signing up for an e-mail list.
When journalists eavesdrop on Internet chat rooms, they run the risk of invading the privacy of the participants, as well as misrepresenting their purpose in being there.
The following article was excerpted from the book, "Digital Dilemmas: Ethical Issues for Online Media Professionals."Internet communications can be monitored secretly by one's peers through a behavior called "lurking.'' This is akin to eavesdropping, or perhaps listening to talk radio programs regularly without ever calling in.
Internet lurkers typically log on to chat rooms and discussion forums or join e-mail lists and newsgroups with little or no intent of sending messages; rather they prefer to read the communications of others.
But whereas the radio lurker cannot see the telephone numbers of those who call in, the online lurker usually has access to the e-mail addresses and screen names of anyone who sends a message or participates in a discussion.
There is nothing to prevent a lurker from copying a newsgroup or e-mail message from another subscriber and spreading it around the Internet, effectively making the original sender's e-mail address available to millions of other users.
Likewise, lurkers in restricted chat rooms and forums may also be able to record messages and circulate them around the Net.
Lurking is practically impossible to prevent, though it does raise some ethical questions.
For example, should journalists, academic researchers or public relations professionals gather information by lurking in chat rooms?Tags: Adult Dating, affair dating, sex dating