Topic 4- Ethical issues for business social media use

Ethical issues concern the conduct of moral principles developed by behaving in a correct and honest way. This week, I will discuss the ways in which unethical misuse of social media by business employees may negatively damage business reputation, while also addressing how misinterpretation of social media content by such employees may lead to unjustified job losses.

Image 1

On one hand, it appears that employees exposing business confidentially on social media is entirely unethical. For example, a Lacoste employee lost his job after he posted a picture of his pay-check on Instagram to show his frustration at his low wage compared to the high costs of living. Johnson (2016) states that as a representative of a company it is within the moral duty of employees to promote the reputation of the business, rather than tarnish it. The same applies to employees that speak negatively of their employers on social media, subsequently damaging the business name and often leading to justified dismissal of employees from the company ( Rapacon, 2016).

Image 2- created by David Alderman

However, there is a case that social media platforms give a voice to less powerful individuals and it is through such systems that waves of support can form and change can result (Guardian, 2014). Therefore, by employees displaying genuine negative comments on social media they may simply be voicing a true and free opinion that would otherwise be unheard.

Greenwald (2014) makes the point that social media behaves as a tool for “Mass indisrciminent surveillance” that removes individual privacy, making social media less a tool of expression, but rather a site of constant monitoring. This suggest that despite the freedom employed by social media platforms, due to risk of job loss, negative company comments (even if meant harmlessly), should not be displayed on public sites, particularly due to the ease of misinterpretation on social media as seen with the Justine Sacco case.

job loss
Image 3- Created by David Alderman


The TED Talk  below emphasises how misinterpretation and the publicity of social media can have detrimental effects.

Ethical considerations concerning freedom of the speech on social media by employers seems to raise a moral dilemma. It seems easy to say that negative posts on social media by company representatives are always unethical. This is particularly true when the reasons for expression for the negativities is not considered such as, employee mistreatment, freedom of speech, or simply a comment made jokingly that was misinterpreted.

Personally, I feel that employees shouldn’t discuss work-related topics on social media. Issues regarding work satisfaction should be addressed formally with company managers instead. From this consideration, I can also recognise the importance of multiple identities as discussed from topic 2.

Word count: 439


Greenwald. G (2014), TED TALK, why privacy matters

Johnson. T (2016) How social media can damage company reputation

Rapacon. S (2016) CNBC, How social media can get you fired

Ronson. J (2015) how one stupid tweet blew up Justine Sacco’s life

Ronson. J (2015) TED TALK, how one tweet can ruin your life

The Guardian (2014) Twitter abuse: easy on the messenger editorial

Williams. V (2015) 8 insane social media posts that got people fired

Image references

Image 1 – Dilbert daily strip (2014)

Image 2- self-made using Piktochart

Image 3- self-made using Piktochart


17 thoughts on “Topic 4- Ethical issues for business social media use

  1. Hi David,

    I found your Topic 4 blog post interesting as it considered the responsibilities of employees to businesses, rather than other way around like mine. You concluded by highlighting the importance of multiple identities and the separation of work life from personal social media accounts. However, as your charts show, businesses often watch your non-work related content too; the trouble with social media is ALL content now has to be monitored.

    What are your thoughts here: is carefulness suppressing authenticity due to a risk of ‘misrepresentation? Even our personal accounts and opinions risk damaging company reputations. Maybe you agree that it is hard to balance both the morals and rights of both the employees and employers in terms of a competing freedom of expression and responsibility.

    I have since found a key research paper (especially pp.21-26) which highlights the problems of employers’ interactions with employees social networking accounts and significantly adds to this debate! What are your thoughts?


    Word count: 160


    • Hi Scott,
      Thanks for your comment. I completely agree that due to the monitoring of all online systems in modern society, whether professional or social, the risk of misrepresentation has resulted in individuals having to supress their authentic nature in order to conform to the extremes of political correctness. However, I feel that another major problem of online content is that it publicly available to the masses and as a result the likelihood that someone will view your content as immoral increases (Despite the innocence of most online content). While I don’t believe that freedom of expression should ever be supressed, on an online format it may be a necessary to withhold from posting content that may be viewed as controversial, particularly if you are aware that social media may be monitored by your employer.
      Thanks, David


      • Hi again David,

        Even though I raised the issue of the suppression of authenticity due to having to monitor accounts and profiles online in terms of maintaining a good reputation for the company, I do agree with you that withholding some information may be necessary, or at least managing accounts in a private / professional manner. Having a private account for personal content that may risk, even if innocent, being understood incorrectly, is the best approach, especially as it means users can make a professional account – something that is important for if / when employers screen social media in the recruitment process (see my post).

        Also, Patricia raised a good point on her comment on my post, that we have to self-regulate / manage our persona’s offline in day to day life, and so we should be expected to do the same to a certain degree with our online personas! Do you agree?



      • Hi Scott,
        I completely agree with the comment that Patricia made on your blog as I feel that in many ways our online persona is a reflection of our offline self. We obviously have to self-regulate in day-to-day life, appearing professional in some contexts while other environments, such as when socialising with friends, allows us to be more relaxed. The same, therefore, will apply to our online persona. I don’t feel it inauthentic to then have multiple identities online as I’m sure you’ll agree, it merely represents us as adaptable, as appose to deceptive.
        Thanks, David


      • Also, in reply to your last comment, I’m glad you liked Patricia’s post! Like you said, self-regulation online can indicate, especially in terms of professionality, a person who is likely to manage themselves well in real life / offline too. I can therefore see why you’ve considered multiple online personas as adaptive and reflecting adaptations we make offline. My post ended with Greenwald’s discussion around self-regulation as problematic and a form of surveillance, which I agreed with and do still partly stand by, but through this discussion and others, I can see how some self-regulation is necessary, especially in regards to maintaining a professional profile in the context of also maintaining a company’s good reputation, as your post discusses.

        Once again, thanks for an interesting post and discussion!


  2. Hi David
    Really enjoyed you post this week, and I liked the fact that you provided an alternative solution to just simply rashly posting about issues that you may have at work, in order to come to a solution outside of the public eye, as well as your links to previous topics.
    I wonder do you think it is ever acceptable to post about issues that you are having with work? As you mentioned in your post, sometimes social media can give a voice to those who were previously unheard and powerless, and in other areas of everyday life, social media has been able to make a big difference in highlighting issues that people are facing globally.
    Word count: 121


    • Hi Rebecca,
      Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you enjoyed my post this week. In answer to your question while I do agree that social media gives a voice to the powerless, I feel that this is within certain boundaries. On one hand, social media allows free expression of opinion, acting as a tool for change, and while this can be used to improve issues within employment, this must be done carefully. I feel that before addressing social media to attempt to change work related issues, the user should first speak to their work superiors as this shows directness and in reality will be the best way to promote personal change. Social media, however, invites change through the use of mass a following with similar ideologies that may work together to amend immoral actions. Therefore, in some ways I feel that social media should be seen as a last resort if change can be achieved exclusively. The problem with attempted change through social media is that there may be a high level of backlash alongside the potential support.
      Thanks again , David


      • Hi David!
        Thanks for responding to my comment!
        I completely agree with the idea that the use of social media for voicing your concerns at work is definitely one that should be approached with caution, much like with everything that we post as we don’t know who can or will see it in the future. Whilst definitely giving a voice to the powerless, it can also do some damage to your professional lives, as it could indeed come back to haunt you and in some extreme cases, cause a global backlash, rather than making a change for the good, like it was originally intended to. Consequently like you have said in your blog and post, sorting out any issues that you may have internally most definitely should be used as the first step into making your working life a happier and healthier one!


  3. Hi David,
    I really enjoyed reading your post this week and found it very interesting and inciteful. I especially enjoyed the fact that you chose to use a cartoon as it was rather eye-catching and made the post informal whilst having a serious message. You brought up the use of multiple identities and how easily someone’s reputation can be ruined from misappropriation of social media, furthermore given the wide reach of social media it is far harder to recover from. I am interested to know however at what point do you feel social media is being over utilized and to an extent exploiting the user given the lack of context that a post or tweet may hold. Do you completely believe that one’s personal identity should be split into multiple social media accounts to avoid any issues and at what point does this become a misrepresentation of an identity?
    Many thanks,
    word count: 152


    • Hi Ausaf,
      Thanks for taking the time to read my post and I’m glad you enjoyed it. Even though I personally believe that the use of multiple identities may not accurately portray a person’s true character, I feel that they are becoming a necessity in the modern world of online interaction. When considering the scrutiny of online accounts in the realm of professional occupation, as well as the army of “keyboard warriors” that believe it their moral duty to uphold a notion of online political correctness, I feel that the use of multiple identities is the only way to feel that an opinion can be safely expressed without a tirade of personal backlash. In answer to your question, I think that if multiple identities is what it takes to be able to discuss issues freely then I strongly advocate them. In many ways, therefore, this cannot be seen as a misrepresentation of an identity, but instead a way to divide different facets of our personality, just as most people do in reality to distinguish between professional and social life.
      Thanks again, David


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