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Facebook and Other Social Media

Facebook and other social media platforms play a significant role in private life and business environment. However, due to a large number of users, the use of social media platforms may raise ethical concerns. Still, such platforms should take certain steps to encourage appropriate behavior since they have an ethical duty to its shareholders to do so. Facebook and other social media platforms should focus on two aspects of users’ activity. First, they need to prevent any violation of ethics by introducing sanctions and reporting cases of violation to the corresponding bodies. Secondly, social media platforms should focus on handling the already posted information by monitoring it either with specially designed software or trained employees. Therefore, the situation of ethics violation on Facebook and other social media platforms is not a stalemate since there are possible solutions.

Facebook’s Legal and Ethical Duty to Rescue a Crime Victim

The whole business model of Facebook is based on providing third parties with customers’ information to make advertising more accurate. Although it is a violation of privacy to some extent, all the users agree to the company’s terms and conditions. As the company developed its data collection algorithms, it created a tool that allows identifying many trends among users. The tool is useful not only for commercial purposes, but it is also valuable from the social perspective. Thus, despite the absence of legal requirements forcing Facebook to rescue a crime victim, it has an ethical duty to do so because it has the means and tools for it. The social network should treat its users as customers and as individuals. Thus, all the facts identified should be addressed with ethics and morality in mind. In special cases such as crimes, humanity needs to come before commerce and strive for revenues.

Proactive Review of the Types of Content

Social media platforms serve as a place where people can express their thoughts and positions. Usually, such information is not interfered with, and there is only a small degree of moderation. Nevertheless, there are many cases when the content is either abusive or dangerous. Therefore, social media platforms should be more proactive and thorough while reviewing different types of content on their websites.

The first option is to incorporate a technical checking tool detecting certain prohibited keywords. Its development could be costly to implement due to expenditures on programmers and analytics determining the list of keywords. However, in the long run, large volumes of content could be monitored automatically, which would eliminate the expenditures on employees. There are existing examples of such tools such as Cloud Vision API by Google, which proved its efficiency, though the technology is still under development (Leetaru, 2017). Therefore, this option is the most efficient of the three.

The second option is the creation of a new department responsible for monitoring all incoming content in a manual mode. It is similar to the first solution, but, in this case, there would be a need for constant expenditures on salaries for employees.

Thirdly, social media platforms could focus on preventive measures rather than dealing with the already existing content. Companies should introduce severe sanctions for the violators of policy. Such measures are likely to be effective since everyone posting content on social media platforms is a registered user. The sanctions should be a ban on using the platform. Further, the platforms’ employees should conduct selective checks of the content, impose sanctions on violators, and publish their actions on a designated page.

Safeguards to Help Prevent Acts of Violence from Being Broadcasted

Social media platforms play a significant role in society and create opportunities for the emergence of many new trends due to certain technological innovations, such as live broadcasting. However, due to the ethical duty and responsibility to shareholders, these platforms should both provide opportunities for the development of such trends and control them.

One of the safeguards that should be put into place to prevent broadcasted violence is to eliminate anonymity. McGoogan (2017) suggests that companies should require verifications of identities and real names when creating profiles. This way, users would be deterred from broadcasting violence since they would find it difficult to do so anonymously. Besides, social platforms should be remodeled in general to prevent the unregistered users from viewing the content.

The second safeguard is the introduction of software capable of detecting violence. There are practical examples of such tools, such as those created by Google (Leetaru, 2017). Moreover, in the long and even short run, there are many possibilities because now artificial intelligence is being developed actively. Therefore, detecting software is an efficient safeguard against broadcasted violence when immense volumes of information are channeled through the platform over short periods of time.

Facebook’s Ethics Officer or Oversight Committee

Currently, despite many ethical issues with social networks, Facebook does not have an Ethics Officer or Oversight Committee. Heider (2017) says that before 2016, there had been a department responsible for dealing with the trending section, although it was later replaced with an algorithm because of political implications. However, the decision to disband the department had both positive and negative effects.

Human beings cannot cope with myriads of posts and check them all. On the other hand, an algorithm is not yet capable of determining the extent of ethics a post uses because it is highly contextual and requires critical thinking in most cases. Therefore, the best option for Facebook would be to combine the efforts of human beings and algorithms to achieve the best results. In other words, the social network should have an Ethics Officer.

Changes to Encourage Ethical Use of Social Media Platforms

One of the reasons why some of Facebook users act unethically is because their identity is known neither to victims nor the social network platform administration. Thus, one of the options to encourage ethical use of Facebook is to eliminate anonymity. As people are no longer able to remain in a shadow of their nicknames and fake names, they will have less encouragement to behave unethically either because of the possible legal responsibility or non-acceptance in the society. Therefore, Facebook could change the way users sign up by introducing mandatory identity verification, while providing a guarantee of privacy protection.

At the same time, without the elimination of anonymity, it would be difficult for Facebook to encourage ethical use of its platform. The reason is that all people are different, and the social network is not able to educate millions of users. Therefore, the other change that the company could adopt is to introduce legal prosecution for severe violations of privacy. However, in this case, Facebook would have to interfere with privacy to some extent due to the need to track the activity of individual users and report severely unethical behavior to the corresponding state agencies.

Conclusion

Due to the impact of Facebook and other social media platforms on society, they have an ethical duty to encourage ethical use of these platforms and discourage violence. Facebook and other social media platforms could pay more attention to the content that appears on their websites by introducing software or manual monitoring that would detect the undesired information or focus on preventing measures, such as sanctions for violations of privacy. Besides, such platforms could prevent the broadcasting of violence either through eliminating anonymity or using specially designed detecting software. One of the drawbacks of Facebook is the presence of violence on its website, which may be related to the absence of an Ethics Officer. Therefore, it would be desirable for this social media platform to have one. An ethical use of social media platforms could be encouraged by the elimination of anonymity or reporting of ethics violation to the corresponding bodies. Overall, there are many opportunities for social media platforms to discourage malicious use, and many of such opportunities are based on technological advancements.

References

Heider, D. (2017, January 8). Why Facebook should hire a chief ethicist: Column. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/01/08/facebook-ethics-fake-news-social-media-column/96212172/#

Leetaru, K. (2017, April 19). Why don’t social media companies stop violent imagery?. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2017/04/19/why-dont-social-media-companies-stop-violent-imagery/#3c55cfd42e9f

McGoogan, C. (2017, March 24). Three ways internet companies like Google and Facebook can prevent the spread of extremism. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2017/03/24/three-ways-internet-companies-like-google-facebook-can-prevent/