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Sunday, 23 March 2014

#uosm2008 - Topic 4 -Discuss the ethical issues raised by educational and business uses of social media


“Social media is the interaction among people in which they create, share, or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.” [1]

Ethical issues with social media:

From researching the #hasjustinelandedyet [3] it shows that ethical issues such as racist comments can be easily spread to a global audience. This is an issue because it is the twitter platform that allows the spread of this non-ethical content. This article [4] looks at how twitter is stuck in the middle between freedom of speech and slander laws.

Ethical issues with Educational Use:

For me educational use includes learning about someone. This is what businesses often do while screening candidates online. Is it fair that information intended for social interaction, e.g. Facebook profile pictures, can then be used to asses if your are an appropriate candidate for a job?

Ethical issues with Business use:

From reading an by the Institute of Business Ethics [5], the main issue to be considered is Integrity of the businesses brand image and ethics. This is often compromised by an employee using social media in an irresponsible way, this is sometimes done through a company account and other times done through a personal account, but mentioning the company in question. Various examples can be seen here http://www.smartplanet.com/photos/10-brands-damaged-by-social-media-disasters/ [6].

On the other hand -> Positive Aspects of Social Media:

Social media services such as twitter give a voice to people who have often felt excluded and powerless [2]. Every tweet is public and every #hashtag is valid and so it is easy to get views across and into the public eye. #freedomOfSpeech

Personal Experience:

For me the worrying part is when brands pages apear up on my newsfeed saying that one particular friend and 24 of your other friends like the particular brand. An example from my phone can be seen below.

I worry that many of the pages that I’ve liked may be used as an endorsement to my friends too. The way in that Facebook defend this point of view is that it is like walking out of a shop with a branded bag. By carrying it you tell other people that you like it, and almost that you endorse it.

But shouldn’t consumers who click the like button have a choice about whether their name is used to promote a brand or not?

Just because I’m carrying a bag from Primark doesn’t mean I have to carry it in Primark bag?!

The majority of my Facebook group likes are down to people hijacking my account anyway, with multiple pages including Justin Bieber and One Direction, this could mislead people to thinking I like these bands.


[1] Ahlqvist, Toni; B├Ąck, A., Halonen, M., Heinonen, S (2008). "Social media road maps exploring the futures triggered by social media". VTT Tiedotteita – Valtion Teknillinen Tutkimuskeskus (2454): 13.
[3] http://www.buzzfeed.com/alisonvingiano/this-is-how-a-womans-offensive-tweet-became-the-worlds-top-s
[6] http://www.smartplanet.com/photos/10-brands-damaged-by-social-media-disasters/


  1. Hi Tim,
    Great structuring of your post to signpost the different arguments and I thought that starting with a definition of social media was a brilliant idea as the term and services are ubiquitous their scope is often not well understood.
    I fully agree with your mentioned ethic issues about the business use of social media, however, I would argue that your example of an ethical issue raised by educational use of social media also belongs in this category. Companies using online networks to search for information about job candidates for me is an example of a business use of social media. In my opinion educational uses of social media either centre on social learning whereby social networks are directly used to enhance learning or use social media to indirectly benefit education. For example, when I was on my Year Abroad my peers and I set up a Facebook group to share relevant information. This was particularly useful when we came to write our Year Abroad Research Projects. The immediacy and accessibility of social media allowed us to share information that had been individually emailed by our different supervisors; however, this did pose some ethical issues as sometimes false information would spread due to either a miscommunication, a lack of understanding or simply an error in transcription. Obviously this caused some stress and panic. This is one of the risks of social media that things can spread quickly and sometimes that can be negative, however, rumours also tend to proliferate when information is lacking so in general I think that this is a positive use of social media.

  2. Hi Tim,
    Nice blog that covers both the educational and business aspects of the ethical debate.
    When talking about the #HasJustineLandedYet furore you seem to look at it from the perspective that it is her tweets and the racist connotations that were attached to it that were the main ethical issue. I looked at it from the basis that whilst the things she said were questionable at best the response it garnered was unwarranted. She was lambasted and abused by hundreds of people and, on top of this, was ultimately sacked from her job. Do you not think that it was the public response to her comments and the way in which she was effectively forced from her position in a PR move could be considered more unethical?
    Jake :)

    1. Hi Jake,

      Thanks for your comments.

      With regards to Justine I think both points of view are valid, and that it is a combination of the two which makes this story so interesting. As you say sending abuse is definitely not ethical especially when some of the responses were far beyond what is necessary in my opinion.