The online space has become a digital public square, where individuals interact and share ideas on the most trivial to the most serious of matters, including discussions of controversial ethical issues in science, technology and medicine. In the last decade, new disciplines like computational social science and social data science have created methods to collect and analyse such data that have considerably expanded the scope of social science research. Empirical bioethics can benefit from the integration of such digital methods to investigate novel digital phenomena and trace how bioethical issues take shape online.
Here, using concrete examples, we demonstrate how novel methods based on digital approaches in the social sciences can be used effectively in the domain of bioethics. We show that a digital turn in bioethics research aligns with the established aims of empirical bioethics, integrating with normative analysis and expanding the scope of the discipline, thus offering ways to reinforce the capacity of bioethics to tackle the increasing complexity of present-day ethical issues in science and technology. We propose to call this domain of research in bioethics digital bioethics.