In my last blog, we looked at the power of social media and whether it influences ‘Thinking out loud’. In this blog, we will look at personal or private information on social media.
Social networking has become very popular in our culture, and I’ve often wondered if the technology is influencing peoples’ views about ethics at work and within their own social spheres. Social media has very unique characteristics when compared to traditional media. Its speed and scope means that once content is published, it is available instantaneously, to a potentially global audience. While the decision to post videos, pictures, thoughts, experiences and observations to social networking sites, is a personal right, a single act can create far-reaching ethical consequences for individuals. Similarly, when an organization uses social media in an irresponsible way on behalf of an organization of through their personal social networking site, it not only exposes the organization to integrity risks, but may undermine the company’s commitment to ethical practices.
Cases in point: Government officials who continually post personal opinions on topics of national concern without scant regard for the office they hold. Should a judge express a personal bias on an issue in a public sphere? Consider too, a news agency tipped about the death of a public figure, do they discuss with the police and await notification of the death to next-of-kin, or do they rush to publish the story in the name of ‘Breaking news’ or ‘You’ve heard it here first’? Also, journalists who post personal opinions about news headlines via their personal social networking platforms – readers may assume that they speak on the employer’s behalf, making it difficult to separate the journalist’s personal views from the news.
Personally speaking, all news agencies should have social media guidelines or policies such as: “Don’t publish names of the deceased until next of kin is notified, Don’t discuss articles that have been published, meetings you’ve attended or plan to attend with staff or sources, or interviews that you’ve conducted.”