This report presents a synthetic study on ethical issues in social media. Social media is an emerging media that has revolutionized the sharing of information taking it to a different level. It is being deployed in various areas to bring unfathomable profits. One of the major areas where it has being used is in business. Executives have realized the latent of social media and are in a hurry to incorporate them in their businesses.
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With such massive use of social media, many ethical, legal, and social issues have emerged. These issues can be solved if all the stakeholders in the industry-users and project developers-work together towards upholding peoples’ privacy and security. This report identifies how this can be achieved under the legal and ethical use of social media.
Several decades ago, anyone could be a media publisher. All they needed was a few million dollars, a team of editors and writers, a printing press able to print dozen copies per second, and of course, a distribution network that would ensure your books are in stores across the country. If all these requirements are anything to go by, the process was a little harder, not unless one wanted to venture into radio or television.
The result of this complicated process meant that information came down. People were not bale to talk among themselves. They talked to writers, editors, and producer who chose the subjects and told us their thoughts. If one did not agree with them, there was always the choice of not buying the magazine or switching channels. Advertisers shied off, and all the capital the publication invested became irredeemable.
Fortunately, today, things are very different. It can cost literally nothing to create content and publish it for other people to enjoy. Nevertheless, this low cost has come with a prize to pay. This is because we are no longer being talked to by professional writer and publishers. Instead, we are talking to each other.
Anyone can launch a web site, write articles, or even create video and post them alive. In addition, any one can comment on that content, influencing not only its nature but also the direction of the publication. Social media has enabled all this, a publishing revolution in deed (Alia, 2004 p. 24).
While the networking sites with their millions of members might be the most familiar, there are actually all sorts of different ways of creating and sharing social media content. One of these ways is through blogs. Blogs are a form of social media written by people concerning every topic one can imagine. Only a small portion of blogs is produced by professionals despite the fact that all have the latent to generate revenue.
Blogging is a form of social media because it can cost nothing to use. Other forms of social media include membership sites, dating sites and micro-blogs. The latter category seems to have dominated the market in terms of popularity. This is because sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Spoink, Yammer, and Plurk. Others include Last.fm, Second Life, YouTube and MySpace (Clapperton, 2009 p. 36).
If the scope of all these sites is anything to go by, social media can be termed as the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into content publishers. It entails a shift from a broadcast paradigm grounded on conversations between authors, people, and peers. Social media deploys the wisdom of crowds to connect information in a collaborative manner.
As seen above, social media is in different formats such as internet forums, weblogs, podcasts, wikis, pictures, message boards, and pictures. It uses technologies like blogs, vlogs, wall-postings, instant messaging, email, group creation and voice over IP to cite but a few.
A few years ago, social media was a concept talked of only in the youth contexts. However, today, the phenomenon has gained so much momentum that it has become a household name in every life sphere. In deed, social media is applied in virtually every milieu of human existence. Almost every literature available talks of social media and its effect on business.
This report is not bound to deviate from this norm, but it will be broad in its scope to include other areas where social media is applied as well. The first area to be discussed on where social media is applied is in business. Executives at large and small firms have reached the point of needing to understand what is so special about social media and why they need to incorporate it in their undertakings.
The answer is obvious. Concisely, social media gives companies the authority to create just mere customers; to unite the organization to become more customer-oriented; and to create new revenue streams. These applications of social media do not come without a price to pay.
They come with two significant risks. To begin with, those who ignore the growing demand are caught off guard and miss the next wave of customer relationship building. On the other hand, those who do no understand what it takes for an organization to fully embrace the advantages social media is bound not to realize its promise.
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In the initial stages of social media, it was easy fro companies to brush aside the idea of social media and have nothing to do with it, hence, risk being victims of the two risks. However, today, this trend has changed and more companies are realizing the benefits of incorporating social media in their strategies (Furht, 2010 p. 32).
Social media application areas
One of the areas in which social media has been deployed effectively in business is strengthening customer relationships (Evans, 2008 p. 57). As such, social media has, in numerous ways, made consumers co-owners of a company’s brand, hence, positin9ing them essentially on equal grounds with a company. The scope and scale of social media leaves few stones in the company unturned.
Although social media influences all functions in a business, some are affected more extensively and directly than others are. In order to understand the disparities that exist in the influence chain, it is wise to consider the traditional business functions as consisting of three pillars arranged in a row.
These include legal and finance pillar at the start, research, and development, and the supply chain at the center, and IT, sales, marketing services and human resources in the last pillar (Golden, 2010 p. 19).
The first pillar is the least likely to be affected by social media. In the second pillar, the two functions are not directly connected to the customers. Nevertheless, they play a pivotal role in fulfilling customer demand, and, as such, require new levels of agility to accommodate the dynamic nature of social media. The last pillar is the highly affected by social media. This pillar consists of the front office functions of a company.
The most crucial impact of social media in the front office is that it leads to companies developing unique brands to suit the specific segment of its consumers. In this era of social media, firms will have to become extremely adept at determining the experiences unique to customer segments desire and then at delivering these experiences consistently and flawlessly.
Social media is blurring the lines among marketing, sales, and service. Social media has turned customers into marketers. (Sterne, 2010 p. 65).
From the human resource perspective, companies are increasingly using social media in numerous business functions. HR ensures that employees possess the appropriate social media skills in the recruitment and training of existing employees. In addition, social media is influencing the way organizations attract employees.
Prospective candidates are using social media to get an overall picture of an organization to know whether it is a good fit for them. This implies that companies need to ensure that the employee value proposition they present through social media is appropriate.
Companies can also use social media to find and vet candidates. This implies that the people in the HR function should be skillful in using social media searches into their general recruiting procedure (Qualman, 2010 p. 56).
By identifying unmet needs and services among current customers and developing value-based products and services to meet those needs, companies can differentiate themselves from their competition, as well as generate additional sales and margin.
There is no doubt that social media is one of the most crucial consumer-related developments in the recent past. Firms using it are way ahead of others and have significant changes in their strategies (Safko, 2O10 p. 14).
What motivates IT professionals and/or the promoters of a project? Is it just money?
After discussing a number of areas where social media is applied, it is apparently evident that the whole idea is by all aspects noble. Nevertheless, coming with a social site like Twitter or Facebook is not a walk in the park. It is a very high-risk affair as the project may fail even in the conception stages. In addition, developers of such projects may not be sure of how their innovation will be received in the market.
If a project is high-risk like the case of social media, the conventional sources of financing like bank crediting and other institutional credit might not be available to it. The only capital that may be available to such projects is risk or venture capital. If coming up with an IT project is such a risky endeavor, the big question is what motivates project developers to undertake such risks.
A number of reasons keep IT professional on track with their projects. It is believed that one of the major reasons why these professionals undertake such risks is due to the profits that they will reap from the project. While this may be the case, and in deed, it is given the millions of dollars that social media is pocketing in unimaginable time span, there is more than meets the eye in the cause.
Some IT professionals undertake their risky projects as a matter of a desire to accomplish their dreams. In deed, some begin as mere experiments but end up hitting the market with a bang. In such cases, the developers may not have put the issue of profits into perspective. This does not imply that such professionals are ignorant of the monetary value of their projects.
What is being suggested here is that the main motivation to undertake the project is not great profits but a personal commitment to achieve. This is because the developers of such projects are not sure of the project’s success. As such, the issue of profitability comes as a new revelation later when the professionals realize that their project can be used in better ways rather being a control experiment.
It is also important to note that the concept of motivation varies from one professional to another. To one, undertaking his or her project may be a brainchild endeavor, while others, it may be a matter of the career-based invention (Blanchard, 2011 p. 11).
Is it easy to make a difference and better society and organizations through IT? How can this be done?
Although I.T projects are high-risk ventures, their success may be very rewarding to the individual and society. This has been the case with social media, which has revolutionized almost every sphere of human life.
Although some of the benefits or advantages of social media are discussed in the section of this report that tackles the application areas for social media, this section will add on some of the basic advantages of social media since it is a classical example of a successful I.T project. While the contemporary social media may be criticized for a few of its flaws, it is also fair to give credit where it deserves.
Those who do not see the benefits associated with social media are only hearing one part of the story. There may be all manner of legal, ethical, and social issues surrounding these social networks, but the truth of the matter is that social media can do more good than the perceived harm. In the political scene, social media can augment government’s accessibility by audiences.
This improved government communication ensures that the grievances of citizens are heard and responded to in the earliest time possible (Papacharissi, 2011 p. 21). This enables the government to be more agile in its relation with its citizens, partners, and stakeholders. In addition, social media can reduce government’s dependence on conventional media channels, hence countering inaccurate press coverage.
Politicians vying for positions have proved social media as a cost-effective means of communication. It is a tool that comes in handy in campaign periods as politicians are able to mobilize their supporters, finance their campaigns and gauge their popularity (Poynter, 2010 p. 34).
It is not governments or businesses that benefit alone from social media; even teenagers do. The moment the word teenager is mentioned and social media is used in the same context, the thought that rings in the minds of many is that of a spoiled youth watching some fancy content probably posted by a friend. However, this perspective of social media is highly distorted.
It ignores the benefits that teenagers can attain from social media. Some teenagers are very genuine in their use of social networks as they use them as learning site. When teenagers interact socially online, they accumulate social and technological skills that they can make use of in the modern world. In addition, social media offers diversified forms of media literacy that may prove useful in future social or work endeavors.
The participation of young people in social media offers important new learning avenues. In deed, social media is a phenomenon that should be embraced circumspectly instead of criticizing it based on its latent risks (Newson, Houghton & Pattern, 2008 p. 46).
Social networking sites depend on connections and communication. They often encourage the user to provide a certain amount of personal information. Users’ online profiles may be also made available to the public hence attracting unwarranted attraction. Due to the high number of users in the social networks and the ever augmenting utilization, the fact that social media is slowly becoming an object of abuse is not a surprise.
The threats come in various forms. These include frauds, phishing and spam, cyber-squatting, cyber-bulling, cyber-stalking, impersonation, as well as gathering and aggregation of personal data. There may be no foolproof method of remaining secure in social networking. However, there are a number of guidelines, if strictly followed; they can be handy in realizing privacy and security in social media.
In order to be secure in social media, it is important for one to choose a unique password for his or her media accounts. Surprisingly, many users of social media have the same password for social media and other accounts. This is because a single password is easy to remember. Unfortunately, this is very risky because in a scenario where one account is hacked, this will mean that the security of the others is compromised, as well.
In order to solve this problem, it is always advisable for one to use a password manager such as KeePass (Corner & Silverstone, 2007 p. 51). This application automatically creates sophisticated and unique passwords for each of one’s accounts. In this mane, one’s accounts are secure, even if one of them is hacked.
In order to ensure one’s privacy, it is important to consult the privacy and security guideline of the social site one is using. This will enable the user to set appropriate privacy and security settings for his or her profile. Another important thing one should be cautious when using social media is installation of third party applications. This should only be limited to the sources the user knows (Perebinosoff, 2008 p. 34).
These settings can pose security risks that can affect the user’s private information. This can only be remedied by installing third-party applications from providers who are well known. Another solution to the privacy issue is for users only to accept requests from people they know directly. Generally, one should be very discreet when accepting a friend request from people they do not know.
The last guideline on ensuring privacy on social media is for the user to be careful on what he or she posts. While it may be ‘just fine’ to post those clips of you drunk, it is wise to circumspect the decision before doing so (Scott & Jackal, 2011 p. 13).
Apart from privacy and security issues surrounding social media, a number of social issues have also clouded the new media. Online sociability inherently involves both human-human interaction, and human-technology interaction. As such, both social issues such as trust, intimacy, and reciprocation and technological issues such as the infrastructure of I.T, speed, the ease of use are likely to influence one another.
Social media users interact with other for a purpose. The purpose could be either instrumental or social. Since social media was incepted, it has been followed by a myriad of social issues such as on-line dating and child molesters. These issues have captured the attention of the developers of the various sites who have been forced to alter their privacy and security guidelines to keep at par with the latest moves.
While social networking may lead to beneficial cultural exchanges, there are times the exchanges are completely asocial. For instance, there are some users who engage in online dating only to end up being malicious individuals.
In this case, the other person feels cheated and loses trust with site. In this case, while social media can be applauded for its innovations, it is evident that it is not devoid of loopholes (Kimberley et al., 2009 p. 67).
Legal and ethical use of social media
The issues surrounding social media do not end with the privacy, security and socials there are legal ones too to be considered. It is worthy to not that existing laws apply for both offline and online conduct. Putting this into consideration will help in dictating how he or she is going to use social media.
Legal use of social media
Anytime the user is publishing content on a social network, they should ensure that it complies with applicable copyright laws. Copyright infringement is punishable by law and should be avoided when social networking. It is also advisable to acquire a release of likeliness in case one desires to use other people’s photos or video especially if the content is meant for commercial purposes.
Methods for ethical use of social media
There are various methods to ensure ethical use of social media. Ethical issues concern what is generally considered right or wrong. One of the important ways of ensuring ethical use of social media is to ensure that users have control on what they post on social media. This is because once the content has been posted; it becomes difficult to remove it.
Even if one succeeds in doing so, the damage will already have being done (Drushel et al., 2011 p. 41). Another method of achieving ethical social media use is through being transparent. The duty of transparency requires users to acknowledge the moral dimension of all communicative acts. However, it does not require the sacrifice of autonomous agency when opacity or evasion serves legitimate privacy interests.
Autonomy requires privacy. Empathy is also another way of ensuring an ethical social media. This can be achieved through positioning oneself in the situations. For instance, if a user will not be happy if his or her account is hacked, he or she should not hack other peoples’ accounts (Wilkins, 2009 p. 23).
Is Social media harmful?
Do Information Technologies inevitably have a negative impact on people or society? can they be used to improve people’s lives, and work for the betterment of the human race and the world?
As discussed earlier in this report, social media can be used broadly for the betterment of the society. It offers individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments with an avenue to connect conveniently. As is the case with any other information technology, the manner in which social media is used determines whether it is harmful for the society or not (Drushel et al., 2011 p. 21).
Often users violate the privilege offered by social media and act unethically. Such acts taint the reputation of well-meant innovations. All the stakeholders should ensure that there are stringent laws and policies in place with respect to social networking. In the ideal information world, there is need of ensuring that any inappropriate and unethical use of social media is dealt with strictly.
Users should be responsible enough to use social media for the betterment of the society in ways that do not invade people’s privacy or endanger their security (Simon, 2011 p. 12).
This report has covered various ethical issues in social media. The report identifies the need and various advantages of social media and the associated social issues that arise due to the nature of the social media content. The study indicates that although social media can be beneficial in the field of marketing, socialization, and government relations, people with evil intents to further their interests can also use it maliciously.
In addition, the report provides information about some of the methods that can be used in social media to ensure its ethical and legal use. The report shows that there is a need for user to ensure that they circumspect the content they post on social media. This is because once the information has left their premises; they have little control over it and may be detrimental to their personal or organizational reputations.
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