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Ethical Issues Associated with Social Media Essay



Presently, many people and institutions use social media to interact and conduct business. According to Alexy et al., social media refers to “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other contents” (280). Some of the current social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Podcast. Social media has enhanced instantaneous communication.

Indeed, business people can communicate to their customers and get feedback within the shortest time possible. Nevertheless, these benefits do not come without a cost. Social media is prone to numerous ethical challenges (Reyns 100). Because of the nature of information and transactions that take place in social media, hackers and other criminals have identified it as a suitable avenue to perpetuate their crimes. Social media is susceptible to numerous cybercrimes, which include phishing, cyberbullying, and cyberstalking. This paper will discuss the above cybercrimes and recommend measures that can help to mitigate their effects.


According to Bose and Chung, phishing refers to “the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication” (545). Messages alleging to originate from renowned social sites, banks, auction sites, information technology managers and online payment processors are frequently used to allure gullible individuals. Phishing is normally perpetrated through instant messaging and email spoofing. Unsuspecting persons are instructed to key-in private details into a phony website that resembles a known and genuine site. Phishing is a form of social engineering system that attackers use to swindle internet users (Bose and Chung 547).

There are numerous forms of phishing, which include clone phishing, spear phishing, and whaling (Bose and Chung 550). Spear phishing entails gathering vital information about specific target people or groups to increase the likelihood of a successful cyber attack. The majority of present attacks involve spear phishing. Clone phishing entails using details of a genuine email to develop a phony one aimed at deceiving unsuspecting people.

Whaling refers to phishing attacks that target senior people in business institutions. Attackers use emails or web pages that are highly official. The emails may appear to carry official information or customer complaints. Attackers design emails to appear like important business emails coming from genuine business associates. Among the effects of phishing include monetary losses and denial of services. Over 1.2 million Americans were victims of phishing between 2004 and 2005. The United States lost over $929 million to cyber attackers. Moreover, business institutions lose over $2 billion annually as their customers get deceived (Bose and Chung 552). Although Microsoft disputes existing statistics on phishing, the crime is widespread and is making many institutions to lose clients.


Cyberstalking refers to exploitation of electronic media or the internet to pester or trail someone, a group, or an institution. Cyberstalking may be in the form of slander, false allegations, defamation and libel (Alexy et al. 281). Moreover, it may entail intimidation, solicitation for sex, identity theft and destruction. In most cases, cyberstalking occurs alongside offline stalking. It arises due to one’s desire to influence, threaten or manipulate a victim. Mostly, stalkers are people known to their victims. Cyberstalking may occur in different ways, which include gender-based stalking, stalking by aliens and stalking by one’s spouse.

Gender-based stalking is common worldwide (Alexy et al. 284). It involves the disclosure of victim’s private information on social media and rape threats. Gender-based stalking makes victims refrain from engaging in online activities. Moreover, it undermines victim’s dignity, opportunities, independence, and identity. Cyberstalking that involves spouses is a type of domestic violence aimed at demoralizing a victim and establishing dependency. Perpetrators send intimidating and abusive messages to their victims. In addition, they monitor victims’ online activities and use their accounts to send abusive messages to other people. Eventually, they lead to the victims being in wrong terms with other people and may even lead to the victims facing prosecution for crimes they have not committed.


Cyberbullying refers to harassment that is perpetrated through electronic and social media (Meredith 48). It may be in form of offensive emails, upsetting pictures, and threatening messages. People use mobile phones to post upsetting pictures of their estranged colleagues on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites. In most cases, cyberbullying targets young people and has devastating effects on victims. Victims of cyberbullying are likely to drop out of school and indulge in alcoholism and drug abuse (Meredith 51). Besides, cyberbullying may lead to victims having low self-esteem, thus being unable to interact. Cases of cyberbullying are prevalent among school-going students. In 2013, at least 15% of high school students experienced cyberbullying in one way or another.

Ethical Response

The fight against unethical activities that take place in social media should be a concerted effort between the internet users and law enforcing agencies. One way that people can combat phishing is by using browsers that warn people against fraudulent websites. In most cases, fraudulent sites look attractive and genuine such that it is hard to discern. Therefore, people need to have browsers with anti-phishing capabilities. In addition, social media users should maintain a list of suspicious sites and refer to them when accessing suspicious websites (Bose and Chung 561). On the other hand, institutions need to procure domain name servers that are capable of identifying and filtering modern phishing domains.

Account owners should regularly change their images to avoid cases of attackers using their accounts and images to defraud unsuspecting people. For the case of bank transactions, people should incorporate a second authentication procedure to secure their accounts (Bose and Chung 567). For instance, one may use mobile phone as an extra authentication method. Law enforcing agencies should also help in the fight against phishing. The available anti-phishing laws are not punitive enough to discourage the vice. Hence, law enforcing agencies ought to come up with stringent laws to discourage attackers.

The majority of cyberstalking crimes are perpetrated by individuals known to the victims. Therefore, one way of fighting cyberstalking is preventing people from taking one’s photos (Reyns 107). Once a person takes pictures, it is hard to control how they are used. Consequently, to avoid falling victims of cyberstalking, it is imperative to ensure that people do not take photos without consent. Additionally, people should avoid posting details of their activities on social media. Posting what one is doing or where s/he intends to go may subject him/her to cyberstalking. Hence, it is important to ensure that people cannot predict your activities and whereabouts.

Currently, the majority of cybercrime laws focus on cyber terrorism and child abuse. The available laws cannot apprehend cyberstalkers (Reyns 112). Nevertheless, countries are in the process of developing laws to fight cyberstalking. Rather than telling people to avoid vulnerable sites, law enforcement agencies should come up with laws that track and apprehend cyberstalkers. They should work in partnership with internet service providers to track and arrest people engaged in cyberstalking (Reyns 117). It would discourage cyber attackers from engaging in the activity. Cyberbullying is hard to control since it mainly targets school-going students (Meredith 61).

However, the problem can be resolved with the help of parents and school administrations. One way that the public can manage cyberbullying is by keeping a record of the incidences and reporting them to the relevant authority. Criminalization of cyberbullying may not help to fight the crime. Hence, Meredith recommends the use of education (62). School-going children should be educated on the dangers of cyberbullying and how to avoid it (Meredith 62). It will ensure that they do not fall victims.


Unethical behavior in social media deprives people of their right to socialize or even do business. Today, there are numerous unethical activities that take place in social media. They include cyberstalking, phishing, and cyberbullying. Victims of phishing lose millions of dollars to criminals.

Besides, they unwillingly disclose confidential information, thus enabling criminals to perpetuate their crimes without being noticed. The fight against cybercrimes should be a concerted effort among the public, internet service providers, and law enforcing agencies. People should ensure that they do not access suspicious sites. Besides, they should avoid disclosing personal details to strangers. On the other hand, parents should educate their children on the dangers of cyberbullying and how to avoid it. Law enforcing agencies should work in partnership with Internet service providers to track, apprehend and prosecute cyber attackers.

Works Cited

Alexy, Eileen, Ann Burgess, Timothy Baker and Shirley Smoyak. “Perceptions of Cyberstalking among College Students.” Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention 5.3 (2005): 279-289. Print.

Bose, Indranil and Alvin Chung. “Unveiling the Mask of Phishing: Threats, Preventive Measures, and Responsibilities.” Communications of the Association for Information Systems 19.24 (2007): 544-569. Print.

Meredith, Jessica. “Combating Cyberbullying: Emphasizing Education over Criminalization.” Federal Communications Law Journal 63.1 (2010): 47-63. Print.

Reyns, Bradford. “A Situational Crime Prevention Approach to Cyberstalking Victimization: Preventive Tactics for Internet Users and Online Place Managers.” Crime Prevention and Community Safety 12.1 (2010): 99-118. Print.

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