Public Figures on Social Media

Any person who is considered a public figure tends to be more heavily scrutinized than the average person. When those public figures then go on social media, where there is a very large audience on each network at a given time, all eyes are on them for everything they say. So when Kanye West had a Twitter feud with Jimmy Kimmel, the media had a field day with it. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone with over 1 million Twitter followers (Kanye and Kimmel have 14 million among the two of them) to hide anything from the media, or have any freedom to truly speak their minds without being criticized.

When people have this many fans on social media, any little thing they say can be blown out of proportion. Even who they follow, or don’t follow on Twitter can cause an uproar. It can cause rumors to be spread and false information to be published all over the internet. Paparazzi might be packed so tightly around their homes or any restaurants that it’s difficult for these people to go anywhere. The commercial implications of the rumored feud between Ariana Grande and Jennette McCurdy also leaked into their personal lives, with rumors about the two not being paid equally on their show Sam & Cat and the question of who really leaked McCurdy’s racy photos. All this because McCurdy posted a few cryptic messages on Twitter about a former friend being “a leech”.

If I were the social media manager of a public figure, which I am to an extent, I would enourage them to run everything they want to publish on social media through me first. If I’m being paid to post and moderate their social media accounts for them, I need to be able to also give them advice on what is or is not a good idea to say. The beauty of social media is that you can think and craft a perfect response to someone without them seeing the “first draft” of what you really wanted to say. If a public figure has a social media manager, my advice to them would be to bounce ideas off that person instead of posting on instinct. It may be entertaining for the audience to see an unedited rant, but for the public figure, it could ruin his or her reputation.

The golden rule for broadcasters mentioned in this final lecture of the semester was “if you wouldn’t say it on air, do not tweet it.” This can certainly be applied to my future brand of critic. I am blunt and brutally honest most times. I’m hoping my brand will grow big enough that I am in public figure status one day. I would never say anything in any of my blog posts that I wouldn’t want to post on social media. I own up to every critique I make and I will make sure that whatever I say does not reflect poorly on myself or on any public figure I may critique.

Ethical Implications of Graphic Images

The Boston Bombings brought along many images of people who were either killed or seriously injured in the blasts. Many of these images were placed in online articles with a disclaimer that these images were graphic and people should look at their own risk. But when it comes to social media, there sometimes is no disclaimer. Even if there is a warning in the text of the post, often times the audience scrolls to the image before they have a chance to read the warning. I honestly don’t see anything good that can come from posting graphic photos from the Boston Bombings on social media.

Images that end up in various news feeds don’t have age filters on them. Even if a teen is old enough to have Facebook or Twitter,  they may not be mature enough to handle images of death or gruesome injuries. Obviously I don’t think the teens would be seeking out images of this nature, so I believe it is the responsibility of the person who is posting them to consider all the ways that it could upset the audience if he or she did post them.

As I mentioned, instead of posting the image directly to social media, they could post the article with the disclaimer, to give people a choice of whether they want to see the images or not. This could not only shield minors from viewing the images, but it would protect friends and family members of the victims from having to involuntarily see images that might bring back painful memories. Finally, if members of the audience have an uneasy stomach or can’t handle any type of blood or gore, the wall of the link would shield them from the potential of getting sick.

If someone were to post graphic images from the Boston Bombings on social media for everyone to see, some could view that as the person wanting attention or trying to shock the audience rather than doing something good. With a tragedy so widely publicized as this, people understand the extent of the damage without having to see it on social media. If people wanted to donate their time or blood to help victims, they could do that without a graphic image persuading them.

Finally, if a victim of the tragedy was injured and one of their photos was put on social media without their permission, there could be serious ethical concerns. Personal privacy vs. public interest would certainly be one of the main arguments. The victim may not want to be remembered forever as “the person who survived the Boston Bombings” and wouldn’t want to be looked on with pity for the rest of his or her life. If their photo was placed on social media and went viral, there’s a good chance that the person would never be able to break their public association with the event.

 

Ethics of an American Tragedy

I remember the day of the Boston Marathon Bombings very vividly. I got home from school, turned on the television and immediately texted my friend, whom I know has family in Boston, to see if everything was alright. Even though most of my days are spent on social media, this was one event that I didn’t hear about on Facebook first. However, for the rest of the time that the bombings were at the forefront of the news, most of that news came to me through social media.

In dealing with the news breaks of tragedies like this, people have many ethical dilemmas about what content to publish on social media and how that content might affect the audience. There are certain situations where someone’s heart is in the right place, but it comes off as in poor taste to the public. When a news broadcaster asked fans to “like” a photo of an injured boy on Facebook to let the boy know how many people care, it was met with some intense backlash. Even in situations that are bad, but maybe not to this extent, I always feel awkward “liking” a post with bad news. I would feel much more comfortable commenting to let the person know that I am thinking of them, rather than “liking” the post. I feel like this is what the broadcaster should have done to create the desired effect of his post, while also possibly eliminating any negative feedback. Although it could be annoying to see so many of the same message, people have the option to personalize it and truly let the boy know how they feel about him.

Courtesy of PA Media Group

In response to the image above that Ford posted to the first responders of the bombings, I saw nothing wrong with it. I can understand why people would think that Ford was doing this to push their own product, but I don’t believe they were. In an article with PR News Online, head of social media for Ford, Scott Monty said “if you manage social media for a brand, this would be a good time to suspend any additional posts for the day.” I don’t think Monty would have said that if his true intention was to sell a product during a catastrophic event like this. If people thought that Ford had an agenda more than sending out well wishes, I think they are cynical. It’s not unethical to thank someone on social media and Ford should not be made to feel bad about doing something good.

With every tragedy, there are going to be questionable moments of whether posting something on social media is ethical or not. If you’re unsure of how people will react, don’t post it. But most of all, think of every possible way the content could be misconstrued and do everything in your power to eliminate those possibilities.

Mixing Social Media and The Workplace

One of the more hotly debated topics of social media is how it can fit into your everyday work environment. More importantly, when is it ethical to spend time on social media during the work day and whether someone should be allowed to talk about their job on their personal profiles. I have a very unique situation because my home is my workplace and I don’t have set hours that I work. Because I am a social media manager and personal assistant, most of the work that I do is a very “handle as it comes in” situation. In this case, it’s difficult to separate social media work from going on my personal profile.

My boss is OK with the fact that I put the company name and my job position in my biography on Facebook. I know that I am not allowed to reveal confidential information regarding my job and to be honest, I hardly ever talk about my job on social media. I might share a post from the company page on my personal profile, but that’s the extent of me discussing my job on social media. The only situations where I think it might not be a good idea to mention your job on your biography is if you’re a journalist or you work for a secret government agency. I spoke last week about whether it’s OK to hide your profession as a journalist if you’re trying to get a source to speak with you. I still don’t think that’s OK, but not openly disclosing your profession in your biography might help you separate your personal life from your professional life. It could also help you keep your job longer because your company might not get wind of you speaking badly about your job.

In lecture we spoke about Oracle’s social media policy, which states that “personal social media activities must not interfere with your work or productivity at Oracle.” I understand Oracle’s desire to stay safe in case an employee inadvertently says something they aren’t supposed to say. And I also understand the need for the employee to stay focused on their job rather than being distracted by social media during work. But I’d like to know the consequences if someone does get caught on social media during the work day. Would that person be fired or reprimanded? To me, that would be too harsh for someone who was bored for five minutes at work and had nothing more important to do. Work should be top priority, but I think people should be allowed a few minutes to take a breath and peruse social media if they want.

 

The Convenience of Privacy

When it comes to social media, privacy can be a tricky thing. People are on social networks to connect and share information with their friends. But certain people don’t want the entire world knowing their business. This is where privacy settings come in. If I’m being honest, I probably haven’t taken a close look at my privacy settings for at least six months to a year. I just don’t post that many things on social media where I feel like it would hurt my safety or my reputation if they were made totally public. There are certain things that I hide from certain people, mainly family members, that I might want to hide so I don’t get bombarded with questions. The beauty of status updates on Facebook, my main social network, is that you can block certain people from seeing one post, but not your entire profile. I am willing to admit that I have done that a few times to save myself a little stress.

I think many people don’t use privacy settings to their advantage because they either don’t understand them or aren’t aware of involuntary changes made to them. There are ways to combat both issues. Every time Facebook, Twitter or any other social media channel makes changes to their privacy policy, the channel needs to go out of their way to notify users. They can send emails, messages, news feed posts, whatever they need to do to make sure users are aware of the smallest change in their privacy. People will lessen the complaints as long as they feel like the channel is being honest with them. And to make users comprehend them better, instead of only using legal jargon, they could also have a simpler explanation next to it for reference.

Another aspect to privacy on social media is whether you should have to deal with journalists in a supposed “safe space.” I studied journalism in undergrad and I consider myself an ethical journalist. My alma mater, The University of Arizona, would condemn me if I were to ever try to contact a source of a sensitive news situation on social media. However, I will alter their way of thinking for my own process in getting the scoop. I will use social media to connect with a source, only if every other mode of communication had been exhausted. But, I would be completely honest about who I was and what my motive was. I will not compromise my integrity and ethics just for a story.

In the same vein, if I did gain access to that person’s private social media material, all of that material would remain private unless I was otherwise given permission to use it. If the words “off the record” are spoken, the information is not usable. I would not take the information from the source and share it as my own on any social network unless I was allowed to do so. Republishing material without permission is a form of plagiarism and copyright infringement. If I didn’t want someone else to do it to me, I am certainly not going to do it to them.

They Are Mining Our Data

I don’t know many of the technicalities behind data mining. I will say that this topic has many people afraid, myself included, that we will eventually have no privacy left and no way to protect ourselves. My biggest concern with data mining is that the public will not be able to prevent businesses and internet bots from taking our information and using it to their advantage. I think I may have mentioned earlier in the semester that I was shopping around on Amazon for a gift for someone, but didn’t automatically buy anything. After going back to Facebook, I saw an advertisement for a product I had just looked at on Amazon. To be fair, that’s the product I ended up buying, but it still was a little creepy that Facebook was able to get my information from Amazon and post the ad on my profile that quickly. But what if Amazon starts making suggestions you didn’t search for on their website? If it has your credit card information and your address on file, Amazon, or any other website where you store personal information, could steal your identity or do other things that you won’t even find out about until there’s nothing you can do about it. This rarely happens, but it doesn’t mean it won’t.

If I were creating ethical guidelines for my organization to collect data, the most important one is to be transparent about what data you are using and for what purpose. For instance, if my future blog were to ask about what concerts you’ve been to recently or what area of the country, or world, you live in, I would inform my audience that I was collecting that particular data to shape my content. I would also tell my audience that they don’t have to divulge any information they don’t want to, but the more they give me, the more tailored the content will be. Finally, if it was at a point where I would be selling a product, which I don’t know that I ever will, I would give customers the option of storing their credit card information or not. I would let them know there is a greater risk in storing your information, but if they didn’t they would have to enter it every time they make a purchase.

There’s a big difference between storing personal information for recreational or business use and storing it because of national security. I bring up several situations that have caused chaos in the nation over the last several years, such as the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Sandy Hook school shooting. If the data mining of all of these individuals responsible for these tragedies could have prevented them from happening, I would be completely supportive of that. The only reason I would justify intelligence services data mining is for the physical and financial safety of all people that could potentially be involved.

We All Strive For Accuracy

One of my biggest pet peeves when reading an article online is that it has to be accurate. Probably the most important component of trust in my eyes is accuracy. I don’t care who breaks a story first, as long as the story they’ve reported is correct. All through my undergraduate degree, in journalism no less, I wrote papers and reported news stories seemingly slower than everyone else. it would take me all day to write something that it would’ve taken someone a couple hours to write, because I made sure everything was accurate. I was so upset with myself when I failed a class assignment in one of my journalism classes because I had one incorrect fact; luckily that story was never published.

When it comes to social media, I think speed unfortunately can take even more of a precedence over accuracy. I am constantly referring to the story of Kyle Massey’s cancer hoax to show what can happen on social media when the facts are not checked. I rarely ever believe something first if I read it on social media, unless I’ve checked with a credible news source beforehand and go back to social media to read the reactions. I also rarely ever say to not pay attention to social media, but sometimes news organizations need to do that. If they want their audience to take them seriously, news organizations need to stay focused on reporting the news as accurately as possible. The publications that turn out to be inaccurate will lose viewership because they cannot be trusted, while the accurate ones will remain on top. I also believe that if a news organization is going to publish a story on social media, which they all should be doing, do not hit “publish”, “post” or “tweet” until you are sure every fact has been checked. If it’s an opinion, say it’s an opinion, but don’t make it seem like it could be fact, especially the way things can spin out of control on social. Speed is great if it is possible, but I would rather be trusted because I am accurate than fast.

The other question posed this week is whether it is ethically right to “unpublish” a story on social media if it turns out to be inaccurate. The short version of that is, it is unethical to erase a story that is inaccurate. There’s a good chance at least one person saw the story or post before it was deleted. It seems to me that it is more ethical to own up to your mistakes, which includes leaving the mistake on social, but clarifying or correcting it for your audience. People are human, we make mistakes. If you want to prove to your audience that it is a real person moderating the social media accounts, don’t pretend like something never happened. You can make a new post with the edits and clarifications, but do not “unpublish” the original mistake.