Ethical issues surrounding educational and business uses of social media

Society has undergone a legion of changes, developments and improvements since the 20th century, which includes scientific progress such as Spacecrafts, Washing Machines, The Internet, 3D printers and the phenomenon of Social Media.

Amid this tumultuous media revolution, many of us are using it to research, study and work online. Today, the nature of journalism hands over ‘the means to publish’ into the ‘hands of citizens’ (Ward, 2010). Many news organizations encourage their reporters to use social media to accumulate information, and also create a ‘brand’ for themselves by starting their own blog, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter account.  

Dissimilar to orthodox journalists whose articles must remain unbiased, numerous bloggers delight in the privilege to speak their mind, with some delegating themselves to roles of ‘activists for political movements, and reject the idea of objective or neutral analysis’ (Ward, 2010).

In these times, the preponderance of companies advocate the use of LinkedIn and Facebook for various commercial reasons. It is desirable for employees to use social media for maintaining rapport with clients, marketing and branding, networking, expanding sales and recruitment. Here is what the 2009 Business.com Social Media benchmarking study found. eMarketer graphed the results:

Business.com report: examined how companies embrace social media

eMarketer B2B Social Media Benchmarking Study 2009: Examined how companies utilize social media

However, engagement can open the door to the perils of Social media. Bullies can now utilize these platforms to annihilate colleagues; by harassment, discrediting their work, destroying reputations and disrupting relationships.

The Ethics Resource Center’s 2012 report investigates the relation between ethics and social media. It found that ‘the majority of organizations (78%) track employee use of social media during work hours’.

‘Social networking has become very important in our culture, and we wondered if the technology is influencing employees’ views about ethics at work’, the President Patricia Harned explains. ‘Additionally, over the past few years, we have seen companies establish policies concerning social networking in the workplace, so this year it seemed fitting to add questions on the topic’ (Harned, 2012).

Queen Bees and Wannabes is a 2002 self-help book  by Rosalind Wiseman that centres on the cliques girls in high schools form, and the patterns of aggressive teen girl behavior and how to deal with them. It provided the foundation for the popular 2004 film Mean Girls.  Wiseman refers to the internet as a ‘weapon of mass social destruction’ (Wiseman, 2002). 

cyber

Cyberbullying can include Trolling, Identity Theft/Impersonation, Photoshopping, Spreading rumours, Physical threats  and much more.  According to Liam Hackett in his Annual Bullying Survey the level of Cyber Bullying Statistics in UK is a growing trend and 7 in 10 (69%) young people aged 13 and 22 had experienced Cyber bullying with 20% of which had been very extreme (Hackett, 2013).

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The vast majority of employees are using social media from the office regardless of permission from employers or not, so what is the best way to manage these concerns? Should ethics be addressed in work and social media policies?

Another issue of concern is anonymity. Many, commentary and chat rooms warrant users to remain unidentified; it is not necessary to register and identify yourself in order to comment. It is beneficial for whistleblowers and fundamentally allows freedom of speech though on the other hand ‘critics say it encourages irresponsible and harmful comments’ (Ward, 2010).

Thus, when is it ethical to allow anonymity online? Should there be different rules regarding anonymity on different platforms?

Soviet Russia- Stalin removed a comrade who later became an enemy

Soviet Russia: Stalin removed a comrade who later became an enemy from the photograph

Photo manipulation has been around for decades. Joseph Stalin generally used it for propaganda, but now in this digital era, new image technology (photos and videos) has brought about new moral dilemmas.

Mobile phones and video recorders allow reporters and the public to capture and upload these images via the web. There are also many new tools that doctor and photoshop images so much so, the manipulation can be undetectable and critics debate the credibility of photographs in the courts of law. This also presents an issue of trust for newspapers; the images sent in by citizens may not always be from a reliable source, and on the flip side a handful of journalists themselves have been found to alter and distort images.

To conclude, slightly less than half (47%) of all organizations currently have a social media policy in place. This policy is most commonly communicated to employees via their employee handbook or through some other form of internal communication (e.g. email, intranet) (Harned, 2012).

I do believe in the preservation of the right to anonymity online but we must tackle, discourage and prevent irresponsible use especially in the cases of malicious intent. Therefore, we are allowed to second-guess the morality and authenticity of others when their words don’t coincide with their actions. Misconduct online, especially in educational and occupational settings can have harmful effects on children and victims, diminish the quality of news and media content and fall flat on actualizing the pro-social benefits of producing valuable and meaningful information.

References

Hackett, L. 2013. Annual Bullying Survey. 2013. [report] Brighton: Ditch the Label.

Hanna, B. and Kenekes, E. 2009. 2009 Business Social Media Benchmarking Study. General Summary Report based on Insights into Business Social Media Usage provided by Nearly 3000 North American Business Professionals. [report]

Harned, P. 2012. 2012 ERC Social Media in the Workplace. November 2012. [report] Mayfield Village: ERC.

Shafrir, D. 2009. Queen Bees, Wannabes & How Technology Has Changed Teens Forever. Jezebel.com, [blog] 10/13/09. 2.00pm, Available at: http://jezebel.com/5377987/queen-bees-wannabes–how-technology-has-changed-teens-forever [Accessed: 21 Mar 2014].

Ward, Stephen J. A.2010.Ethics for the New Mainstream. In The New Journalist: Roles, Skills, and Critical Thinking, eds. Paul Benedetti, Tim Currie and Kim Kierans, pp. 313-326. Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications, 2010.

Williams, A. 2008. I was there, just ask Photoshop. [online] 18 August. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/17/fashion/17photo.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3&th&emc=th [Accessed: 19 Mar 2014].

Wiseman, R. 2002. Queen bees & wannabes. New York: Crown Publishers.

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About

Economics and Finance student. University of Southampton. Autodidact. INTJ. Psychiatry devotee. To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me - Isaac Newton. Any Questions? Email: theoceanofknowledge@hotmail.com

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Posted in Topic 4
4 comments on “Ethical issues surrounding educational and business uses of social media
  1. Jazz Curzon says:

    Hey Joy,

    Your blog post was an absolute pleasure to read, it puts my own righting style to shame, I will definitely be taking notes.
    It is crazy to believe that 78% of organisations monitor their employee’s use of social media. I can understand that it hinderers work place productivity, but it show an inherent distrust of employees. I’m interested to hear how you would feel about being monitored like this is in the workplace? I personally feel it would create poor morale within the workplace.
    I took a very different angle from yours in my blog post, but it resulted in the same question, “how can we tackle irresponsible use of social media?” The creation of false identities whether to bully others, or mislead is a huge problem. Do you think this misconduct should be the responsibility of the social media company, or the individual when it comes to policing the Internet? I have thought allot about this subject over the course of this module, and with Internet law being such murky subject I’m still unsure as to wear I stand.

    Kind Regards,

    Jazz

    Like

    • Joy Isaac says:

      HI Jazz,

      Thank you, I appreciate it!

      Yes you’re right, the use of social media is detrimental to productivity in the workplace and other environments too. It’s a huge distraction and even an addiction for some.
      It is alarming that 78% of organisations monitor their employees but I believe as long as your accounts are public, there is not a lot you can complain about as you put yourself out there. I personally find the thought of being stalked slyly frustrating and somewhat an invasion of privacy at times because they become aware of your daily activities by tracking your posts; your thoughts, where you’ve been, who you know etc. We won’t even know which individuals in the firm track all of this information.

      Though, apart from the office, schools also engage in this behavior.
      I know quite a few stories of people that were called out on their inappropriate activity online, especially for cyberbullying.

      http://verdict.justia.com/2013/09/24/should-schools-stalk-students-online-to-prevent-cyberbullying This is article is very interesting and highlights some pros and cons for schools monitoring social media use, which could be applied to employers.

      As for how we should tackle this issue and the law of the internet I think that this digital era calls for the justice system to develop new and distinct laws that result in just punishment for misconduct online. I think it’s quite difficult to police this activity and social media websites should all have fast and efficient tools in place for people to report bullies or suspicious accounts.

      Like the real world, the digital world is not a safe place so it’s important we work to making it less dangerous, especially as children are becoming more technologically apt at earlier ages.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Like

  2. georgiavarti says:

    Hi Joy,
    You discuss ethical issues such as anonymity, cyber-bulling and photo manipulation that can stem from the use of social media; which definitely enriched my understanding of this topic. I particularly like your use of infographics, especially the information regarding why B2B companies may use social media.
    Have you considered the effect that ethical issues created by social media could have on the educational sector? For example Laura (http://laurajhiggins.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/ethical-issues-raised-by-educational-and-business-uses-of-social-media/ ) illustrates how a teacher was fired after writing an inappropriate tweet; proving how when used irresponsibly, social media can impact an individuals or wider society’s reputation, as the school faced repercussion.
    In comparison, Rebecca takes on a different approach – questioning whether educational professionals should have access to materials that may have been created by pupils and intended for peers alone; I know I would be irritated if my teachers were looking at my Facebook or Twitter!
    Thank you,
    Georgia

    Like

    • Joy Isaac says:

      Hi Georgia,

      Yeah I was discussing this with Jazz above. http://verdict.justia.com/2013/09/24/should-schools-stalk-students-online-to-prevent-cyberbullying This article is very interesting and highlights some pros and cons for schools monitoring students online.

      I personally believe it’s an invasion of privacy but know of a few students who found themselves in trouble for messages sent on facebook. If these are private conversations which are not on school grounds or done whilst in school uniform I do not believe the schools have a right to be invasive. Unless someone’s wellbeing is at risk of course.

      Thanks

      Like

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