Ethical Issues in Social Media

Social media is generally portrayed as a positive thing amongst society but I think people tend to forget the ethical concerns behind social networking. What’s even more worrying is that young people are probably the most vulnerable when it comes to using social media. Below I will provide a list of some serious social media ethical concerns published by Professor Paula Swatman from the University of Tasmania.

– Privacy/Anonymity

When social networking no one can ever guarantee 100% that they are speaking to the person says they are. A perfect example was posted by Gary Chuang on his E-Marketing blog, Reddit AMA – President of US and A special, where Barack Obama was doing a Q&A online. Obviously, it wasn’t Obama himself who was answering questions, it was many of his representatives. How can we trust people through social media sites when it is so easy for them to conceal their identity. Further, what a lot of social media users aren’t aware of is that the space they are using is being observed by its creators. ‘Stalking’ individuals in real life and gathering information isn’t welcomed however it’s done everyday on social media sites, so why is it acceptable through a cyber platform?

– Consent
To continue from above, this ‘observing’ of individuals using social media sites is okay, because users consent to it! Sounds crazy hey? The only thing that cray about it, is that a majority of people are unaware that they allow these huge organizations do ‘stalk’ if you will, their activity simply by registering, uploading content, posting comments etc. Furthermore, there is no way of knowing for sure that users of social media sites are of the required age. For example are all Facebook users’ over the age of 15? I highly doubt that! Even if parental consent is required,  this doesn’t mean that a parent actually consented. Having children freely disclose information not knowing who is watching and that they have actually allowed creators to store information is highly concerning.

– Data Sharing / Data Storage

Here’s a little bit of interesting information about foreign government accessing social media data.

“Social networking platforms are mostly US-based…US-based data are subject to the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act – data can be accessed by US federal law enforcement agencies, no matter who owns them…Australians storing data on US sites cannot claim protection under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution (which protects US citizens against unlawful search and seizure of property and information) because their data are stored by a 3rd-party provider”

Does that seem fair? It’s a little scary knowing a foreign government can access everything we submit on these sites and there is nothing we can do about it? So make sure if you don’t want Facebook, or perhaps the US Government to know something, simply, don’t post it!

Personally, I  think the biggest ethical concern is protecting young adults who think these social sites are a safe space. There are so many hidden dangers and ethical concerns on the organizations behalf that younger people wouldn’t even consider when signing up to Facebook, Twitter etc. These organizations have so much information, surely they are doing something more with it than just selling it to marketing companies? I have to admit, I don’t trust them one bit!

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Social Media Policy is a MUST!!

In recent years businesses and individuals have embraced social media’s pervasiveness into their companies and personal lives. It’s undeniable that this communication tool will continue to permeate our lives. A majority of Australian’s are now accessing the internet on a daily basis because it has simply become apart of our lives. However when it comes to using social media businesses are ensuring that their employees are doing so in an appropriate manner which does not portray the organisation they work for in a negative light. Linfox has experienced some trouble with this exact situation.

According to Fair Work Australia, Linfox had unfairly dismissed Glen Stutsel for making racists comments on Facebook about two of his managers, Mick Assaf and Nina Russell, and believe that Stustel should be reinstated and paid compensation for lost wages. Fair Work Australia stated that Stutsel’s comment about the death of a Muslim terrorist were “distasteful” but were within his right to free speech. Therefore this comment could not be interpreted as a personal attack on one of his managers who is a practising Muslim. Whilst the second comment Stutsel referred to his manager as a ‘bacon hater”, as being in “poor taste” nut the comment was not meant to be hurtful in anyway.  Stutsel also claimed that he believed his Facebook profile was on maximum privacy settings where his comments could only be viewed by his online friends.  Fair Work Australia found that the company did not have a social media policy therefore its grounds for sacking Stutsel were on inadequate grounds.  However in future having limited understanding of how Facebook operates  will be viewed less favourably  as more and more people join social media websites.

Fairwork has issued a social media warning as a result, stating that “Unlike conversations in a pub or cafe, the Facebook conversations leave a permanent written record of statements and comments made by the participants, which can be read at any time into the future until they are taken down by the page owner… Employees should therefore exercise considerable care in using social networking sites in making comments or conducting conversations about their managers and fellow employees.” Perhaps businesses should take a look at the public sector and see how they are dealing with the emergence of social media. Implementing a formal policy that the employee and employer agree to may be the best way to manage this new communication tool.

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Facebook is now removing purchased ‘likes’

Facebook has just announced that the company began removing fake ‘Likes’ and deleting false pages “this week”. This was disclosed to Mashable by Facebook spokesperson, Adam Isserlis. However, the process had begun on August 31st when the company assured it’s customers that security improvements were begin made.

The picture below details which pages lost their likes, as indicated by the red figures.

This is a way Facebook could purify the pages and reveal more accurate customer engagement with the content. Why would Facebook open its cyber doors to he purchase of likes in the first place? I don’t know about you, but it really questions the company’s integrity. I hope the advertising revenue that Facebook was receiving was worth it before they had to delete the fake likes and false pages.

Personally, I think this is a little embarrassing on Facebook’s behalf, they literally have to clean up the mess that falsified likes and FB pages have created on their website. It’s a joke!

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TGI’s social media blunder

TGI Friday’s launched a huge Facebook campaign using a fan called ‘Woody’. TGi set Woody a challenge to get 500,000 Facebook fans by 30th September 2009, then they would be entitled to a free Jack Daniels Burger or Jack Daniels Chicken Sandwich. TGI underestimated the response and within 11 days of the campaign launch Woody had already hit the proposed 500,000 Facebook fan mark!

Due to the overwhelming response by TGI fan’s demanding their free burger, the company extended their offer to a million fans in order to silence the voices of the angry new fans.

TGI was unprepared for the huge response and consequently could not keep up with the coupon demand. This only further infuriated customers leaving the ‘Woody’ fan page open to angry fans venting their rage with no moderation.

Essentially what TGI did was launch a campaign with a fictional fan, betraying their customers trust and did nothing more than bribe fans to join their page. After the campaign was over the Woody page was pulled down and all the fans were left abandoned by the company, without their free burger.

This is just another example of how large companies STILL don’t know how to utilize social media to market their brand. They are still unaware of the lack of boundaries social media has when in comes to customers’ voicing their opinions’. It really is unbelievable, in fact a little bit funny, that these social media blunders continue to happen, over and over and over again!  Hahaha!!

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Too much social media?

I most certainly would have to agree!

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Social media, a plethora of market information.

Marketers have found an ideal haven to gather valuable market research, it’s called Social Media. The short video ‘How a business utilizes social media for marketing‘ briefly details Lay’s Facebook app ‘Do us a Flavour’ where online users were asked to suggest new flavours and click an “I’d Eat That” button to register their preferences.

The article by The New York Times ‘Social Media Are Giving a Voice to Taste Buds‘ outlines how major corporations like Wal-Mart are using different social media as a tool for collecting marketing information. No need to traditional forms of market research, such as manual feedback forms, surveys and focus groups. Now Facebook or Twitter can be likened to a virtual focus group ‘the biggest focus group someone could ever imagine’.

An example of the way companies have used social media to gather information was Frito-Lay, as mentioned before, they were planning to create a new chip flavour and were able to get Facebook users to vote on which flavour they would prefer. Not only did this mean the company was gaining access to product information, by selecting a particular flavour the company had access to the consumers location, gender, birthday, photos, list of friends and status updates; the products for which he or she has clicked “like” and more. Some pretty valuable stuff isn’t it?

Another example is Wal-Mart which acquired the social media company Kosmix, primarily because of Kosmix’s ability to extract trends from social media conversations. The corporation have renamed this unit ‘WalmartLabs’ which analyse Twitter posts, public Facebook posts and search terms on Walmart.com as a means to refine what they sell. The technology has the ability to detect when hype is created around a particular subject. For example, WalmartLabs uncovered that cake pops were becoming popular because “Starbucks has just started getting them in their cafes and people were talking a lot about it.” Wal-Mart has since introduced the cake pops into stores and has proved to be a great success.

This technology is a perfect way to replace out-dated marketing techniques however the issue is that marketers are gaining access to user’s private details, potentially without them even knowing. This touches on whether it is ethical for marketers to even be using this information to exploit users’ likes, dislikes and interests especially if they are unaware of it. I understand that gaining market information is difficult but doing it in a stealthy manner is not the ethical way.

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No Facebook account = a pyschopathic person?

Now I am quite open about being a Facebook critic! In fact, I’m kind of glad Facebook has lost $50billion due to their failed IPO! This social networking site has become such an integral part of everyday life that some psychologists  are even suggesting that people who don’t have Facebook may be psychopathic.

Is not joining Facebook a sign you’re a psychopath? Some employers and psychologists say staying away from social media is ‘suspicious”, suggests that people who do not have Facebook are abnormal simply because nowadays having Facebook is considered a social norm! It appears psychopaths such as Anders Breivik who was to blame for the Norwegian mass murders and Jamles Holmes who was responsible for the Aurora movie theatre massacre both didn’t have Facebook accounts. Thus suggesting they did not have healthy social lives.
Even employers are becoming a little sceptical of applicants who do not have a Facebook account because this suggests again, that they do not have a ‘normal’ social life and are perhaps lacking in essential social skills. Right…
I personally don’t think the lack of any social media would lead someone to insanity. If anything, it would be too much cyber interaction which could lead to disturbing or abnormal behavior.

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