Assessing the Use of Scraped and Hand Collected Online Data to Understand Crime by Dr. Thomas J. Holt

In a research paper, “Assessing the Use of Scraped and Hand Collected Online Data to Understand Crime,” Dr. Thomas J. Holt, Professor of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University, outlines how scholars collect online data to study crime, including extremism and terror, online illicit markets, sexual offenses, and other crimes. The paper identifies the use of automated scraping tools to gather data from online platforms and manually saving content from browsers and other applications as the primary methods used by researchers. Holt highlights issues for researchers to consider in gathering such data and offers suggestions to protect the privacy of users whose behaviors are retained in any online data set. He emphasizes the importance of  researchers using data scraping tools in ways that comply with the policies of the originating platform and don’t harm the operations of the hosting platforms. The paper encourages collaboration between groups like the Mitigating Unauthorized Scraping Alliance (MUSA), criminologists, university Institutional Review Boards, and federal funding agencies to promote understanding of best practices for data collection, storage, and analysis.
Dr. Holt discussed the paper and its findings in a webinar hosted by the MUSA on January 31, 2024.
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