Topic 4: Reflection

My blog post this week discussed the use of social media by businesses and the corresponding ethnical complications. It is particularly difficult for businesses to protect their image and reputation online, as increasingly large numbers of their employees have various social media profiles. With this, employees are able to voice their negative opinions regarding the business to their numerous contacts. However, as Olivia points out, these employees are the public face of the company, they are expected to act responsibly and refrain from posting any negative comments regarding the business. However, of course this is not always the case.

In relation to this, Jens discusses the irony of social media, in that it can be used to become employed and unemployed. The reference to a Panopticon type situation, whereby employees modify their behaviour in order to remain professional is particularly interesting. Yet, despite this, there is still a need for social media rules and regulations in order to ensure businesses are protected and employees retain their freedom of speech.

I really enjoyed reading Irinie’s blog post this week as it discussed social media as a distraction during business hours. She found that 40% of businesses have to discipline employees for using social media in the workplace. Social media is becoming increasingly present in our everyday lives, with individuals constantly posting comments, updating their status and adding photos. However, in line with this, the numbers of associated ethical concerns have also increased.

Sarah’s comment brings into question whether social media is becoming too influential in our daily lives. Though social media has improved our daily lives and allowed businesses to advertise and market to a wider audience, ethics remain a concern. Businesses attempt to manage the increased role social media plays in their company and the lives of their employees however; it is somewhat challenging without limiting an individuals freedom of speech.

My Comments On:

  1. Irinie’s Blog
  2. Jens’ Blog
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Topic 4: Freedom of Speech vs. ‘Twibel’

This video provides an introduction to the relationship between free speech and social media.

“Context is everything” – Director of Public Prosecutions.

As social media becomes increasingly prominent, the boundary between an individual’s professional and social life becomes gradually blurred. In Topic 3, I discussed how, depending on content, the use of social media platforms by employers and potential employees could either increase or decrease job prospects. However, it is important to highlight that once you have a job, the use of social media by both these parties does not cease.

Social media can be an effective and cheap platform for mass marketing however; it can also manufacture ethical challenges. Employees’ personal opinions in relation to the company they work for, expressed through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, tend to place companies in a difficult position – they are required to permit free speech but must also maintain a good reputation.

After a long day at work, having dealt with miserable customers and not being paid nearly enough for all the hassle, sometimes you have to vent – for some, their first port of call is Facebook. However, as soon as you mention your employer or company name you become responsible for libel defamation. Ideally, companies would monitor their employees’ use of social media in order to prevent this. However ethically, this is challenging without limiting their freedom of speech (IBE, 2011).

Though in the past libel defamation was more frequent in newspapers, it is becoming increasingly present on social media platforms. The video below highlights the gravity of what at the time seemed like a menial tweet.

In the UK the Smith vs. Trafford Housing Trust case, Smith was demoted for his Facebook comments against gay marriage (Henchoz, 2012). As his Facebook page referred to him as an employee of the Trust, other employees as well as individuals on his friends list could see his post. This led to the Trust claiming that his actions brought them into disrepute, despite his post being unrelated to the Trust and written outside work hours (HRLaw, 2015). Though Smith won his case, it highlights that even with adequate privacy settings, you can never be certain whether or not your employer can see what you post.

Like individuals, companies want to protect their image and reputation. This often results in companies having to develop policies that attempt to control content and restrict employees’ use of social media (Myers, 2013). However, is it ethical to enforce these policies outside working hours? – There is a fine line between monitoring and controlling free speech.

References:

Henchoz, S. (2012) Social Networking: Freedom of Speech vs. Protection of Legitimate Business Interests, Accessed: March 2015.

HRLaw (2015) Status Update on Facebook: Smith v Trafford Housing and Other Tales We Like, Accessed: March 2015.

IBE (2011) The Ethical Challenges of Social Media, Accessed: March 2015.

Myers, C. (2013) Free Speech v. Social Media: Is Your Policy Legal, Accessed: March 2015.

Video1: Cracking Down on UK Social Media Free Speech – October 2012, Accessed: March 2015.

Video2: Courtney Love Wins Defamation Twitter Case – January 2014, Accessed: March 2015.