Topic 4 – Social Media Ethics

First and foremost, what is the definition of ethics? Let’s take a look at what the trusted Oxford Dictionary says:

ethics definition

Glenn Greenwald’s TED talk gives us various arguments in favour of online privacy. Two arguments that he outlines were that of Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Eric Shmidt (there’s a 30 second clip below where he reiterates his stand on the subject). They both are in favour of full online transparency with Schmidt emphasizing that what you post online is a reflection of who you are i.e. “good” people have nothing to hide should they be “exposed”.

Firstly, while Greenwald seems to think that by putting any potential hazardous online activity under the microscope may aid in stopping terrorism, there is a knock-back effect on journalists and activists who aim to fight, leading us all to suffer. Privacy is a basic human right and what we post doesn’t necessarily equal a good or bad person.

I disagree with Eric Schmidt that those who fear transparency, “have something to hide”. We saw this in Topic 2 and Topic 3 where some choose to keep their social and professional profiles apart intentionally for “personal branding”. However, his opinion is this New York Times article reiterates his stand on “filtering” content:

We should build tools to help de-escalate tensions on social media — sort of like spell-checkers, but for hate and harassment. We should target social accounts for terrorist groups like the Islamic State, and remove videos before they spread, or help those countering terrorist messages to find their voice. Without this type of leadership from government, from citizens, from tech companies, the Internet could become a vehicle for further dis-aggregation of poorly built societies, and the empowerment of the wrong people, and the wrong voices.

Zuckerberg takes a different stand. He believes that  a lack of privacy has become the “social norm” and that the rise of social media and blogging has evolved people’s attitudes since the beginning of Facebook’s creation.

In 2013, Ikea spent $654,170 on private investigators to spy on employees. This resulted in Virginie Paulin getting fired for not being sick enough to warrant a year’s medical leave.

Here is my video on the ethics of using social media in business:

There is yes or no answer to the debate on social media ethics. What needs to be established is where the boundaries lie and how comfortable one would feel working in a environment that favours transparency over privacy.



Schmidt, E. How to Build a Better Web The New York Times (2015).

Accessed 18/04/2016.

Litty, M. 6 Ways Your Employer Can Legally Spy On You (2014)

Accessed 18/04/2016.

Greenwald, G. Why Privacy Matters (2014) TEDtalks.

Viewed 18/04/2016.


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