The Ethical Dilemmas of Social Media

Posted by Gabe Ovetz

Have you ever encountered the phrase, “I saw it on the internet, so it must be true”? Modern social media ethics aims to create a precedence for online content that promotes accurate information. 

The term “clickbait” often gets tossed around, but the process in which social media content gains the tag can be ethically challenging in its own regard. From the standpoint of normative ethics, we ask ourselves, “Are the virtues of compassion, courage, and generosity accurately represented within our content? Are these actions intrinsically good or bad, and should they be or not be acted upon?” And, “Will this content bring the right result?” Often times when online content sources focus their energy on generating clicks rather than accurate content, they violate a code of normative ethics. Regardless of whether or not we consciously recognize the violation, there can be negative effects on the organization in question, pushing towards a lowered general opinion of the source.

This brings us to credibility, perhaps the most important yet undervalued aspect of all social media content. Because information is readily available at the tap of a finger, only the organizations that adopt and adhere to a morally high code of ethics remain in the forefront of media content generation. As consumers, it’s easy to assume content is credible without putting in work to gain background knowledge. Especially on social media where a large amount of content is available, and it’s always fighting for attention, the truth behind an image, post, or product can be lost.

A method of standing out in a social media world of incorrectly represented content and low ethical guidelines can be transparency. Citizens tend to demand the actions of organizations to be morally high, so transparency is often the route that companies take to increase credibility and ethical standing. Transparency can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but more importantly by ‘keeping it real’ with objectives, communicating the purposes of actions, adhering to a higher degree of social responsibility, and being mindful of its reputation. These methods are often adopted into ethical codes followed by social media giants.

But how can consumers of social media find their way through the fickle haze of false content? It stems from increased media literacy and the ability to ask questions. We can’t just take information at face value and assume its legitimacy, rather we must seek to find the truth in media content through fact checking and gaining other perspectives.

Buzzfeed even has their own code of ethics, check it out.

This Article Has 3 Comments
  1. Hayden Skoch says:

    Great post, Gabe! I think that the question of normative ethics is extremely important to consider. I think that while there is a lot of content on social media that isn’t transparent or ethical, consumers are starting to demand a higher level of transparency. In other words, I think that being ethical is almost becoming trendy as viewers become more informed about the false content that exists online.

  2. Audrey Marlatt says:

    I think that it has become increasingly harder for consumers to believe what they see on social media. Just in a year the idea of “fake news” and just incorrect or straight up false information has clouded the judgements of consumers. Trust is a huge thing that we’ve focused on in class when discussing social media and how we as consumers understand each individual social channel and the content we see on them.

  3. Kurtis Cooper says:

    Great post Gabe! There is so much that is unclear on the web today like you said more now than ever. It really makes you wish that line from that Verizon commercial of “you can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true” was an actual thing in effect today.

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