Topic 4 – Social Media and Ethics in a Business and Educational Setting

Discuss the ethical issues raised by educational and business uses of social media

Social media is undoubtedly here to stay. Technology as a whole is becoming an ever increasing part of our everyday lives in modern times. With this, there comes the inevitable realisation that we are going to – and possibly already have – encounter a whole host of ethical issues and problems regarding the way in which social media is integrated into our professional lives, either from a business or educational perspective.

With social media the gap between our personal and professional worlds has become ever smaller, which presents us with one of our first major issues. People are increasingly being held accountable for their social media posts by employers as evidenced by the Justine Sacco furore (aka #HasJustineLandedYet). Justine was – ironically – a PR executive with IAC who was eventually sacked after her a joke insinuating that only black people could catch AIDs went viral. While her comments were ill advised, did her actions really necessitate the backlash she received from the public and her subsequent sacking? Is it ethical that she was dismissed for publishing her own views, especially a view that was probably meant as a joke? Or did she waive any right to privacy and anonymity when publishing it on the internet?

On the educational front the increasing use of social media in the classroom raises even more ethical issues. For example, while in college my lecturers would often disseminate important information regarding the course. For most people – especially in the UK – this would not be a problem but there is always the chance that you run the risk of alienating a proportion (however small) of the class who do not have access to the internet. Ethically speaking, this might also contradict policies such as the No Child Left Behind act in the US. If the integration of technology into education increases then more people run the risk of being socially excluded. In the UK it is estimated that a third of the poorest children do not have the internet at home while 2010 estimates for the US put the percentage of households without access to the net at all at approximately 20%.

These examples show that we as a society need to update our own ethical guidelines for the way in which information and opinions put forward via social media are dealt with in a business and educational setting.




  1. Hi Jake,

    Your blog was a pleasant read, it flows nicely and is easy to read. I like that you draw upon examples and your own experiences, it helps to convey your points thoroughly.

    My questions for you are about the Justine case. You asked some open questions yourself and I wondered what you actually thought about it? Everyone knows she made a mistake and it was foolish of her to tweet such a controversial statement but did she deserve the backlash? I think this guy, Christ Taylor ( makes some good points. He wrote his blog whilst Justine was on the plane, when she didn’t know the self-destruction her tweet was creating. He called her action a “monumental stupidity” but again deliberated over the response. At that stage no one knew whether Justine had been hacked or not and everyone jumped to conclusions. In my personal opinion I think Justine should’ve known better, especially being a PR executive and yes, because she did write it herself, put her job and her role under question. However I think the other responses she received including the creepy stream of hatred on social media sites and hateful comments of her on her Instagram photos were too far..

    What do you think? Did she have the right to publish that tweet?



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