Social Media Ethics

Online social networking is the use of dedicated websites or application to interact with other people who are also on those social networking sites having same interests or same circles, groups or communities.

With the rise of Online Social Networking, the ethical dilemmas are growing in number including violation of privacy, misrepresentation, bullying, etc.

Ethical dilemmas faced when different people use social networks are given below:

  1. Invasion of privacy
  • If the actions that break the law or terms of privacy of any user of social network harms that individuals personal or professional credibility, that action should be considered unethical. The invasion of privacy would include any non-permissive approach taken to get any kind of personal or any other kind of information about an individual which can harm him or affect him in any sense.
  • While discussing social media ethics, behavioral targeting is a questionable area to consider. The advertisers tracking our shopping behaviors and click through patterns to use that data in retargeting campaigns. The positive point is that the viewers may appreciate the relevance of the material being advertised to them, but this is a kind of invasion of privacy.

2. Spamming

  • Over-publicizing unasked promotional messages is also considered as an unethical act based on how this is being done. In spamming users are usually bombarded with information which does not interest them or even if it does, it is too extensive to be swallowed. In this situation, the user’s relative information which he may be needing gets under the pile and may get ignored because of that useless pile of spamming which is obviously unethical from user’s perspective.

3. Public Bashing

  • Once a person post something on social media, it can go viral without asking for permission which then can’t only affect reputation but also the person or company you were disparaging about, so much. This kind of cases can also raise a risk for legal lawsuits.

4. Improper Anonymity and Distorted Endorsements

  • If one represents himself with wrong affiliations, credentials or expertise, it is unethical to become anonymous but showing yourself to be someone different than you are. There are people who provide companies with their anonymous feedbacks which are not true, and it has caused a lot of damage to companies by the stories of consumers of their products by fake stories. Hiring people to comment your favourable or fabricated stories about your company or your products are also considered unethical. Some employees are also found guilty of exaggerating competitive deficiencies.

5. Data is public or private

  • One of the biggest areas of concern with social media data is the extent to whether such data should be considered public or private data. Key to this argument is the standpoint that social media users have all agreed to a set of terms and conditions for each social media platform that they use, and within these terms and conditions there are often contained clauses on how one’s data may be accessed by third parties, including researchers. Surely, if users have agreed to these terms, the data can be considered in the public domain.
  • There are also specialist organizations that provide social media employment screening services. This raises ethical challenges for employers around employees‟ right to privacy and fairness. Is it ethical or fair to judge an individual’s ability to fulfill their employee responsibilities based on information about their personal lives, gained from their social media profile? In some cases, the information may relate to past activities in a job candidate’s personal life.

Social Media and Ethical dilemma

  1. Utilitarian perspective: Facebook and other sites have been the scene of cyberbullying and online predation. But the same technology allows people to connect with others they might never have met and form meaningful relationships. Hence there is ethical dilemma in its usage.
  2. Fairness perspective: Some people believe social networking sites offer the ultimate in egalitarianism. When we interact with others online, we have no real way of knowing whether they are white or black, male or female, fat or thin, young or old.
  3. Virtue perspective: Many interpersonal virtues we value evolved in the context of face-to-face communication. Honesty, openness, and patience, for example, are used in negotiations we must manage when we meet people in person. What impact will digital media have on these virtues?
    • Ex. What would honesty mean in the context of a world where people are represented by avatars? Will other virtues emerge as more important in social networking, where we can be constantly connected to a large reservoir of others and can shut off communications easily when we are bored or encounter difficulties?


Freedom of opinion and expression is guaranteed by the constitution and legislation, but there is often an expression of excessive freedom. Proper ethical standards for social media research need to be designed but they should be dynamic too technologies and the way that technologies are used are constantly changing.

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