The proliferation of social media has brought with it an influx of ethical challenges but what exactly does ethics mean?
Whilst not exclusive to social media, one particular ethical issue emphasised through its use is the ‘Digital Divide’. This is widely accepted to denote the division between those with access to cyber technologies such as the internet and those without.
The above video shows that the issue is very much close to home with discussions around the homeless, the elderly and the disabled. The Digital Divide is often simplified to an issue around material access but skills access, mental access and usage access are also significant (van Dijk & Hacker, 2003).
The above figure demonstrates that barriers to internet access are receding, suggesting a diminishing divide. However recent steps away from Net Neutrality (see here for a debate) risk undoing such good work. Net Neutrality states that all internet data should be treated equally. President Trump’s office recently challenged this and stopped companies from providing low cost internet access (King, 2017). Expense is a major contributor towards the digital divide (Kelion, 2013). A rise in internet prices could in fact widen the gap.
Whilst inequalities catalysed by expense are at the core of the issue, I’d argue that today qualitative usage inequalities have formed between those who do have access based on factors such as age. I touched on this in my first post, highlighting work which suggested that older people in fact perform better than their younger counterparts in terms of content related skills (van Deursen, van Dijk, & Peters, 2011).
What’s this got to do with Social Media?
In last week’s post I explored the business use of social media in recruitment. Additionally, throughout this module I’ve been encouraged to use Twitter to share relevant resources to aid education. I’ve outlined some issues in each context below:
So, is it right for businesses and educators to advocate Social Media?
As I mentioned previously, ethics is subjective. Whilst the digital divide may disadvantage many, how many more would be disadvantaged if we stopped using social media all together? I feel there is always going to be some form of inequality and we should instead focus on minimising these divides as much as possible. Business and education should use social media but ensure that an increase in convenience for users doesn’t marginalise the minority further.
This is just one example, do you have any thoughts on the ethical issues below?
Graphic created using Canva
Word count: 394
English Oxford Living Dictionaries. (n.d.). Definition of ethics in English. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ethics
Greenwald, G. (2014, October). Why privacy matters. Retrieved from TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/glenn_greenwald_why_privacy_matters
Kelion, L. (2013, October 7). UK jumps up internet scoreboard as digital divide grows. Retrieved from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24426739
King, C. (2017, February 5). Trump’s F.C.C. Pick Quickly Targets Net Neutrality Rules. Retrieved from NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/05/technology/trumps-fcc-quickly-targets-net-neutrality-rules.html?emc=edit_nn_20170207&nl=morning-briefing&nlid=71378739&te=1&_r=0
Kleinman, Z. (2015, March 5). Who’s that girl? The curious case of Leah Palmer. Retrieved from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-31710738
ONS. (2016, August 4). Internet access – households and individuals. Retrieved from Office for National Statistics: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/householdcharacteristics/homeinter netandsocialmediausage/bulletins/internetaccesshouseholdsandindividuals/2016#householdinternet-acces
PlugandPlay. (2014, May 16). PlugandPlaytechcenter. Retrieved from Four and Against – The Net Neutrality Debate: http://plugandplaytechcenter.com/2014/05/16/four-and-against-the-net-neutrality-debate/
Ronson, J. (2015, February 12). How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life. Retrieved from NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Magazine&action=keypress®ion=FixedLeft&pgtype=article&_r=3
Tavani, H. T. (2011). Ethics and technology: Controversies, questions, and strategies for ethical computing. John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from: http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-EHEP002522.html
Travis, A. (2016, November 29). ‘Snooper’s charter’ bill becomes law, extending UK state surveillance. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/29/snoopers-charter-bill-becomes-law-extending-uk-state-surveillance
van Deursen, A. J., van Dijk, J. A., & Peters, O. (2011). Rethinking Internet skills: The contribution of gender, age, education, Internet experience, and hours online to medium- and content-related Internet skills. Poetics, 39(2), 125-144. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304422X11000106
van Dijk, J., & Hacker, K. (2003). The digital divide as a complex and dynamic phenomenon. The information society, 19(4), 315-326. Retrieved from: http://doc.utwente.nl/58689/