Social media is redefining the relationships between organizations and their audiences, and it introduces new ethical, privacy, and legal issues. As an organization, an employee and an individual user, we need to have a better understanding of the ethics, and also the law, as it applies in these new contexts. Pre-existing media law about copyright and fair use was not written with social media in mind, so changes and interpretations are necessary.
After the invention of blogging, social media began to
explode in popularity. Sites like MySpace and LinkedIn
gained prominence in the early 2000s, and sites like
Photobucket and Flickr facilitated online photo sharing.
YouTube came out in 2005, creating an entirely new way for
people to communicate and share with each other across
By 2006, Facebook and Twitter both became available to
users throughout the world.
COMMERCIAL USES OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Crisis, Support, Product, Sales, PR, Community
Commercial Educational Uses of Social Media
1. Crisis – crime, accidents, shootings
2. Support – weather closings, transit, deadlines
3. PR – rankings, awards, publications
4. Community – events, sports
5. Product & Sales – admissions, new programs
Extensive listing by groups
The “Dark Web” of Social Media
The SM that you don’t create or control
• Reviews & comments on Glassdoor, Monster, LinkedIn,
The Ladder and other job and professional sites about
working conditions, salaries, interview questions…
• And content on Facebook, Instagram, Rate My
Professor, Blog posts, videos…
• Reviews of your institution
By students: Niche, CollegeTimes, StudentReview, Unigo, College
By publications: US News, WSJ, Princeton Review, Forbes
Ethics & Law
Ethos is the character or fundamental values of a person,
people, culture, or movement
Ethics is a set of principles of right and wrong behavior
guiding, or representative of, a specific culture, society,
group, or individual.
Laws are the rules and standards issued by a government,
or to be applied by courts and similar authorities.
Where do they meet?
It may be legal to auto-subscribe all the members
of your alumni email database to your new
newsletter, but is it ethical?
And Social Media Is Also About
“Ethics is what you do when no one is looking.” – George Bernard Shaw
“How can you assure anonymity for a political
dissident or corporate whistle-blower without
also offering cover for a terrorist?
How can you distinguish algorithmically between
a nude photo that’s revenge porn, and a nude
photo that’s a work of art?
There’s no way for a machine to make these
judgments, and no one has enough money to
hire human beings to make these judgments.
- Aram Sinnreich, social media ethicist at
Rutgers University’s School of Communication
Do you read the Terms of Service before you “agree” with it?
Liability for Google Services
WHEN PERMITTED BY LAW, GOOGLE, AND GOOGLE’S
SUPPLIERS AND DISTRIBUTORS, WILL NOT BE
RESPONSIBLE FOR LOST PROFITS, REVENUES, OR DATA,
FINANCIAL LOSSES OR INDIRECT, SPECIAL,
CONSEQUENTIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES.
TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, THE TOTAL
LIABILITY OF GOOGLE, AND ITS SUPPLIERS AND
DISTRIBUTORS, FOR ANY CLAIMS UNDER THESE TERMS,
INCLUDING FOR ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES, IS LIMITED
TO THE AMOUNT YOU PAID US TO USE THE SERVICES
(OR, IF WE CHOOSE, TO SUPPLYING YOU THE SERVICES
Facebook respects the IP rights of others and is committed to helping 3rd
protect their rights. Our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities prohibits
users from posting content that violates another party's IP…You own all of
the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control
how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos
and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following
permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you
grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free,
worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in
connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you
delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been
shared with others, and they have not deleted it. If we remove your
content for infringing someone else's copyright, and you believe we
removed it by mistake, we will provide you with an opportunity to appeal. If
you repeatedly infringe other people's intellectual property rights, we will
disable your account when appropriate.
TWITTER Respects the INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
of others and expects users of the Services to do the same. We will respond to
notices of alleged copyright infringement that comply with applicable law and are
properly provided to us…
We reserve the right to remove Content alleged to be infringing without prior
notice, at our sole discretion, and without liability to you. In appropriate
circumstances, Twitter will also terminate a user’s account if the user is
determined to be a repeat infringer.
You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or
through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or
through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free
license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process,
adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any
and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).
What your lawyers will say
1. Using social media without violating Federal,
State and local laws
2. Using social media without comprising
3. Using social media without infringing on
intellectual property rights
free speech rights
online sexual harassment.
What your lawyers will say
1. Have ways to deal with harassment and
2. How are we protecting confidential
information and privacy?
3. How do we deal with copyright and IP abuse?
EMPLOYER / EMPLOYEE PRIVACY - example
• Is it legal for employers to require their employees to provide
login/passwords for access to personal SM accounts?
• In 2013, New Jersey became the twelfth state to enact social media password
protection legislation, imposing some restrictions on employer access to the
restricted, personal social media content of applicants and employees.
The new law was enacted after Governor Christie vetoed an earlier bill, which he characterized as "too broad."
According to Governor Christie, the earlier bill was so broad that "an employer interviewing a candidate would be
prohibited from asking about the candidate's use of social networking to gauge the candidate's technological skills
and media savvy." In addition, the bill would "subject an employer to protracted litigation, compensatory damages,
and attorneys' fees.”
While the new law adopts all of Governor Christie’s proposed changes, it still broadly restricts employer access to
the social media content of applicants and employees.
To the future… AI and the Internet of Things
gathering data automatically and “anonymously”
Facebook Pushes Back Against Report of Housing Ads Targeted by Race
• Have up-to-date policies in place and
• train staff (incl. student workers), faculty and students
• about SM ethics codes & case studies (ex: images)
• and ethical social networking conduct, and also
• their personal privacy & social media rights.
• 70% of Employers Take Disciplinary Action for Social Media Misuse