Ethics in social media


By Andréa Harvey, Natalie Mangan and Kira Hoffelmeyer

The main lesson I learned from our discussion on transparency was the value of being proactive rather than reactive. An issue that best exemplified this was dishonesty of relationships because it seems pretty straightforward at first — don’t lie, obviously. But transparency isn’t just about not lying — it’s about telling the truth, which involves much more effort. Otherwise, it’s easy to make these mistakes, especially when you’re posting to social media so frequently. So, be proactive. Be prepared. This is where the importance of social media policy comes in. And for personal accounts, it’s not much different. You should still hold yourself to a high standard, which includes proactive habits. For example, if you’re sharing content from an organization that you’re involved with, it’s important to disclose that relationship. The easiest way to be proactive about this is to list the organizations you’re affiliated with in your Twitter or FB bio. If you’re tweeting from a different account though, you should definitely disclose it in the post.—Andréa Harvey

Companies need to use caution when trying to make jokes on Twitter. There is a fine line between being funny and being controversial. Some popular companies like Clorox and Dave and Busters have crossed this line and it did not end well. For example, Clorox posted an image on Twitter saying “New Emojis are alright, but where’s the bleach” and included a photo of a Clorox bottle composed of Caucasian and other assorted emojis. People were outraged by this image because of its racist nature. Clorox eventually took the tweet down and issued an apology stating “Wish we could bleach away our last tweet. Didn’t mean to offend – it was meant to be about all the emojis that could use a clean up” but it’s reputation has been stained. Sometimes no news is better than negative publicity and before a company posts something on Twitter or any other social media platform, they should give it a second look.—Natalie Mangan

The best words of advice I’ve ever received about ethics was from Karen Pensiero, the ethics editor at the Wall Street Journal, when she came to the University of Oregon for the Ruhl lecture“Be honest. Don’t lie,” she said. I think that these words are applicable not only to journalists, but to social media managers as well. Being honest and being accurate require transparency — which is something that is difficult to define for social media. After class on April 23, I still don’t think I could tell you if there is an organization that does “transparency” well. But what I can tell you is that there are important and essential steps to being transparent. One of the first ones? In my opinion, that transparency, that honesty and that accuracy starts with not deleting tweets — no matter who you are or what you do.—Kira Hoffelmeyer

Here’s a list of our tweets before, during and after April 23’s class:

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