As discussed in my comments and reflection for last weeks topic, the ethical implications of social media use within businesses are far-reaching (Gunkel, 2015), and as the web continues to evolve, so do the associated moral challenges.
The line between personal and professional is becoming increasingly blurred, and alongside the many benefits, there are shortcomings associated with the use of social media within businesses.
What are the ethical implications?
The predominant ethical challenges can be grouped into 3 categories:
One of the main issues linked to social media use within business is integrity risk (IBE, 2011). What this means is; if an employee was to use social media irresponsibly on behalf of their company or on their own personal platforms, they can undermine the integrity, professionalism, and values of the company as a whole. This was seen in the case of Justine Sacco – she posted a racist and offensive tweet that went against the image the company wanted to portray, and she was in fact fired (Ronson, 2015).
Powtoon created by author to represent the Justine Sacco situation.
This also applies to ‘Twitter abuse’, which when classed as too far removed from ‘free speech’, can result in prosecution, on top of the violation of your role as a particular employee (The Guardian, 2014)… and a criminal record doesn’t look too good on anyone, or any business for that matter.
Advertising and Marketing Practices
Businesses and companies have a particular duty to advertise/market responsibly and honestly (IBE, 2011). With the frequent and easy use of social media to promote business, it can be easy to slip up with advertising standards and mislead consumers. The Kardashian family are paid to promote a multitude of products on Instagram, but have gotten in trouble before for failing to declare which posts were sponsored .. thus, representing the businesses but not in a professional manner (Roettgers, 2016).
As discussed last week, social recruiting is now the norm — 93% of recruiters use or plan to use social media to support their recruiting efforts (Jobvite, 2014).
…but this process and the resulting situation can have severe ethical implications:
This brings us back full circle to the fact that the line between the personal and the professional is becoming increasingly blurred. Bringing social media into business is inviting the personal into the professional, which directly challenges the classic notion of
Never mixing business with personal matters
…thus, it’s no surprise there are so many ethical obstacles businesses have to work their way around.
Greenwald, G. (2014). Why Privacy Matters. [podcast] TED. Available at: http://www.ted.com/talks/glenn_greenwald_why_privacy_matters [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Gunkel, D. (2015). Social Media: Changing the rules of business ethics. Northern Illinois University (NIU) Newsroom. [online] Available at: http://newsroom.niu.edu/2015/03/17/social-media-changing-the-rules-of-business-ethics/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Institue of Business Ethics, (2011). The Ethical Challenges of Social Media. 22nd ed. [ebook] London. Available at: https://www.ibe.org.uk/userassets/briefings/ibe_briefing_22_the_ethical_challenges_of_social_media.pdf [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Jobvite, (2014). Social Recruiting Survey 2014. [online] Available at: https://www.jobvite.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Jobvite_SocialRecruiting_Survey2014.pdf
Kelion, L. (2013). UK jumps up internet scoreboard as digital divide grows – BBC News. [online] BBC News. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24426739 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Ronson, J. (2017). How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life. The New York Times. [online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Magazine&action=keypress®ion=FixedLeft&pgtype=article&_r=3 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Roettgers, J. (2016). Kardashians in Trouble Over Paid Product Endorsements on Instagram. [online] Variety. Available at: http://variety.com/2016/digital/news/kardashians-instagram-paid-ads-product-placements-1201842072/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
SilkRoadTechnology, (2010). Social Recruiting: Is Your Company Using the Power That Is Social Media? | SilkRoad Video. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pjuV5zUlMc [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].
The Guardian, (2014). Twitter abuse: easy on the messenger. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/24/twitter-abuse-abusive-tweets-editorial?CMP=twt_gu [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].