Topic 4: The Ethics of Social Media Within Business Companies.

Social Media Statistics 2016 (4)

Figure 1. Statistics of social media users in 2016, taken from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Self-produced via Adobe Photoshop CS5.

According to the Pew Research Center (2015), 76% of Internet users have at least one social media account. The continuing rise of social media has been adopted by many business institutions as it enables them the opportunity to examine the background of their employees and candidates (Hazelton & Terhorst, 2015).  Thus, social media has progressed from checking criminal convictions to exploring the ethical characteristics of an online persona (Vallor, 2015).

Morality (2)

Figure 2. Definition of ethics, adapted from Oxford Dictionaries (2017). Self-produced via Canva.

obviously, you're gonna be my (1)

Figure 3. Definition of business ethics from Drushal and German (2011). Self-produced via Canva.

Davison et al., (2012) argues it is unethical for recruiters to make a decision based on someone’s social profile since it may contain private content. Additionally, Maltby (2014) stated that monitoring social media of employees generates unrelated work issues. As a result, it is important to consider an individual’s right to privacy (Abril et al., 2012).


Figure 4. Ethics of social media and privacy. Self-produced via Google Slides.

Regarding privacy, two prominent ethical challenges are raised. The first involves the person’s morality on their online networks, while the second refers to user information that companies track (Lauby, 2012). For instance, Luckwaldt (2014) illustrates how businesses examine social media accounts to police employees’ behaviours. This can induce fear, which supports critique by Kumar (2015), that employees feel anxious due to institutions monitoring their online media. Consequently, people aware of this supervision can feel more self-conscious about their online privacy and profiles (Drexler, 2014).

Figure 5. Examples of privacy invasion. Self-produced via PowToon.

Businesses often overlook the reasons and motivations behind personal social media use, whereby most people use it as a form of expression and communication (Ahn, 2011). Thus, companies may limit that candidate or employee’s use of social media as they have to be attentive of online content (CIPD, 2010). In contrast, Williams (2016) argues that Facebook Messenger ensures privacy, while Debatin et al., (2009) indicates there is a rise in user privacy. These suggestions signify that social media blurs the boundaries between personal and professional life. The ambiguous control companies have over social media and privacy challenges what course of actions to take, without limiting freedom of expression (Cavico et al., 2013).

Countering the Issue

Overall, businesses should fully assess the ethical challenges of using social media to safeguard the company. I believe a social media policy that aligns with a company’s ethics policy should be implemented – this can guide an employee’s use of social media on behalf of the institution while maintaining a degree of personal usage and privacy (IBE, 2011). Such a policy would reduce legal risks, and discourage behaviour that leads to negative consequences (Kaupins & Park, 2010).

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Abril, P. S. (2012). Blurred boundaries: Social media privacy and the twenty-first-century employee. American Business Law Journal, 49(1), 63–124. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-1714.2011.01127.x

Ahn, J. (2011). The effect of social network sites on adolescents’ social and academic development: Current theories and controversies. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 6(8), 1435–1445. doi: 10.1002/asi.21540

BBC. (2017). Ethics: A general introduction. BBC.

Blake, K. E. (2016). The 2016 LinkedIn stats you should know! LinkedIn.

Business Ethics Briefing. (2011). The ethical challenges of social mediaInstitute of Business Ethics.

Cavico, F. J., Mutjaba, B. H., Muffler, S. C., & Samuel, M. (2013). Social media and the workplace: Legal, ethical, and practical considerations for management. Journal of Law, Policy and Globalization, 12.

Davison, H. K., Maraist, C. C., Hamilton, R. H., & Bing, M. N. (2012). To screen or not to screen? Using the internet for selection decisions. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 24(1), 1–21. doi: 10.1007/s10672-011-9178-y

Debatin, B., Lovejoy, J. P., Horn, A. K., & Hughes, B. N. (2009). Facebook and online privacy: Attitudes, behaviors, and unintended consequences. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 15(1), 83–108. doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2009.01494.x

Digital Sapiens Media. (2016). Social media usage stats in 2016.

Drexler, P. (2014). Don’t let social media be a road to career trouble. Forbes.

Drushal, B., German, K. (2011). The ethics of emerging media: Information, social norms, and the new media technology. New York, NY: Continuum.

Ethics. (2017). In Oxford English Dictionaries online, Retrieved from

GMI Blogger. (2015). Google Plus users statistics 2016. Global Media Insight.

GMI Blogger. (2015). Twitter users statistics 2016. Global Media Insight.

Hazelton, A. S., & Terhorst, A. (2015). Legal and ethical considerations for social media hiring practices in the workplace. The Hilltop Review, 7(2), 7.

Kaupins, G., & Park, S. (2010). Legal and ethical issues associated with employee use of social networks. Advances in Business Research, 1(1), 82–93.

Kumar, S. (2015). Why monitoring employees’ social media is a bad idea. Time.

Lauby, S. (2012). Ethics and social media: Where should you draw the line? Mashable UK.

Luckwaldt, J. H. (2014). Should companies monitor workers’ social media? PayScale.

Maltby, L. (2014). Should companies monitor their employees’ social media? The Wall Street Journal.

Martin, M., Whiting, F., & Jackson, T. (2010). Human resource practice, 5th edition. CIPD.

Maxin, J. How Instagram will be whetting the appetite of businesses in 2016. The Next Scoop.

Perrin, A. (2015). Social media usage: 2005-2015. Pew Research Center.

Tynan, D. (2016). Facebook’s journey ‘only 1% done’ after surge in revenue, Zuckerberg says. The Guardian.

Vallor, S. (2015). Social networking and ethics. Standard Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Williams, O. (2016). WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger top amnesty privacy rankings. The Huffington Post.

YouTube. (2016). Statistics. YouTube.

Figure References

Figure 1. Self-produced from Adobe Photoshop CS5.

Figure 2. Self-produced from Canva.

Figure 3. Self-produced from Canva.

Figure 4. Self-produced from Google Slides.

Figure 5. Self-produced from PowToon.

Featured image. Notes of ethics and social media. Retrieved from Flickr. Self-produced from Adobe Photoshop CS5.


4 thoughts on “Topic 4: The Ethics of Social Media Within Business Companies.

  1. Hi Wei!
    I enjoyed reading your blog as it reinforced the concept of social media currently being a platform which helps businesses to see whether future hires or current employees are behaving ethically.

    Watching your Powtoon, I was shocked and surprised to learn that employers have asked for their employees’ login details as I find it a major breach of their privacy. How would you react if your employer was to ask you for yours? If you said no, would it not look as if you have something to hide even if you don’t? This article begins to say that it isn’t illegal for employers to ask this, but do you believe it should be?

    Furthermore, to what extent do you believe that companies should monitor their employees’ social media? I can understand why they would do this, however at the same time shouldn’t the privacy of employees be respected?

    Looking forward to your replies!

    (156 words)


    1. Hi, Carolina!

      Thank you for commenting. When I read about the login details I was just surprised as you are. I agree with you that it is a major breach of privacy, especially when they can access messages which are private. Personally, I would tell them no due to a whole host of ethical issues, with number one being about privacy. Regarding that article, I think it is important for companies to implement a policy which grants people the right to not give out their password for job-related aspects. As pointed out by Smith and Aplin (2012), it can cause distress. Furthermore, it is unnecessary to tap that far into someone’s personal life. The information they find may not even be relevant at all!

      In response to your other question, although the debate is balanced, it is interesting how businesses can assess you based on your online presence. Therefore, this brings me back to issues of professionalism and how one should be conscious their social media profiles. According to Black and Johnson (2012), social media screening is poorly documented. Although social networking sites may be beneficial to hire the best employees, it can facilitate unethical hiring practices. This is when employers collect data through the screening process.

      I believe it is necessary for additional academic research to address the use of social media screening within the selection process, as this can have implications for both businesses and candidates. Further research should raise awareness of using online information to hire employees, but also present the strengths and limitations of using social media in hiring purposes. After all, candidates’ online information can infer biased judgments and prevent them from securing job opportunities.

      Best wishes,

      Black, S. L., & Johnson, A. F. (2012). Employers’ use of social networking sites in the selection process. The Journal of Social Media in Society, 1(1), 7 – 28.

      Smith, R., & Aplin, D. G. (2012). Employers should tread carefully in asking for Facebook, other social media passwords. Bloomberg BNA.

      Liked by 1 person

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