Topic 4: Social Media, Business Use and Ethics

topic 4, 1.png

I have previously explored how social media can increase employability through the creation of a brand across various platforms and the utilization of privacy settings. However, is the use of social media by businesses ethical?

What do I mean by ethical?

Ethics are ‘a system of moral principles’ that acknowledge what is good for both the individual and society. In a business setting, we can consider the employee and employer as having a duty to each other; to respect, uphold values and be wary of actions.

Andy sernovitz explores how ideas of trust, disclosure and honesty are consistently considered by businesses in the real world, but sometimes fail to carry across to social media (video below).

In terms of the recruitment process, is the use of social media ethical?  64% of 800 recruiters surveyed look at 2+ social networking sites during the recruitment process, and many use specialist organisations that provide a screening service (IBE, 2011).

We would consider the act of businesses following and watching us in real life, in an attempt to understand our personal lives, as unquestionably unethical. So does screening lose real-world ethical considerations?  I explore this question in my Prezi linked below: 

Regardless, students need to be aware of what employers are really looking for…

Root and Mckay (2014) compared student perceptions of screening against reality. They found that they correctly identified drugs, alcohol, sex references and negative comments as an employer concern. However, few recognised the necessity of their online communication skills, grammar and spelling. Personally, hearing this is somewhat concerning. My personal Twitter and Facebook accounts act as an archive of outdated content and opinions, and my communication skills often purposely lack. However, after leaving university, I have an ability to utilize privacy settings and alter online portrayals of me accordingly.

What is especially problematic though, is that employers often looked at students’ friendship groups, accounts and tagged posts. This is non-manageable and unavoidable content.

Finally, on to a topic of particular and course-related interest (Foucault and surveillance) ! Screening has both a key difference and similarity to the concept of mass-surveillance explored by Greenwald (2014) below. This comparison which highlights both sides of the ethical consideration debate around screening, allows me to present a final conclusion on social media, business use and ethics (see infogaphic below the video).

Topic 4, 4.png

I want to leave you with a contrasting case of blind-employment to get you considering where you stand in this debate (Economist, 2015; BBC, 2015).  I welcome any questions and a debate in the comments!

Word count: 425

Infographics (‘A Quick Think Back’; concluding comparison) created by me

Presi (‘Social Media and Screening’) created by me


BBC, (2017). Ethics: a general introduction. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Burton, S. (2017). Social Media and Screening. Available at: [Accessed 26 Mar. 2017].

Burton, S. (2017). Topic 3: Professional online identities. [Blog] Learning to ‘Live and Work on the Web’. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Greenwald, G. (2014). Why privacy matters. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Institute of Business Ethics, (2011). The Ethical Challenges of Social Media. Business Ethics Briefing. [online] London: IBE. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Parkinson, J. and Smith-Walters, M. (2015). Who, What, Why: What is name-blind recruitment?. BBC. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Root, T. and McKay, S. (2014). Student Awareness of the Use of Social Media Screening by Prospective Employers. Journal of Education for Business, 89(4), pp.202-206.

Sernovitz, A. (2015). Social media disclosure and ethics for big brands. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

The Economist, (2015). No names, no bias?. The Economist. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Van Iddekinge, C., Lanivich, S., Roth, P. and Junco, E. (2013). Social Media for Selection? Validity and Adverse Impact Potential of a Facebook-Based Assessment. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2013(1), pp.12262


19 thoughts on “Topic 4: Social Media, Business Use and Ethics

  1. Hi Scott,

    Thank you for a really clear and interesting post!

    To add to your points on social media recruitment, I agree that it’s all too easy for recruiters to make judgements based on information that is intended to be personal. In your view, do you see social media screening as a step too far? Or is it something that potential candidates should accept and take into consideration?

    In response to the article on name-blind recruitment, I am shocked to read about the discriminatory biases based just on a candidate’s name. Having said this, I’m wondering whether these issues are more prominent due to social media, or whether it’s a problem within recruitment in general.

    Do you think that name-blind recruitment is an effective solution? This article suggests that whilst it may reduce biases in the initial selection stages, these biases may later present themselves at interview stages, where demographic information can no longer be hidden. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!



    1. Hi Patricia, appreciate the comment!

      In terms of social media screening going too far, I think it depends on the individual case / employer. If recruiters put out a disclaimer during the process that they may access your social media accounts, have rules in place to avoid discrimination, and use screening only to remove potential candidates who have clear disruptive or irresponsible behaviour, then screening may be allowed. But even then disruptiveness is subjective and discrimination can be subconscious.

      I can understand how a quick scan of social media can determine if people are likely to act professionally / managing themselves carefully, but I think a lot of online personas differ online to real life and traditional recruitment techniques like interviews allow for better judgement of candidates, and are less likely to be unethical.

      In regard to name-blind employment, I think discrimination can be reduced and it’s an important sign of progress, but I do agree with your article that discrimination can still take place at later recruitment stages. However, people can better show their character and abilities in person, and not being removed at the name stage gives them a better chance to do this. So, I think it’s a step in the right direction.

      Again, thank you for your comment and ideas!



      1. Hi Scott,

        Thank you for your detailed response!

        I agree that whilst social media screening raises some ethical issues, if carried out in a standardised manner, using disclaimers as you suggest, it perhaps isn’t all too different from traditional screening. Having said this, I do believe that underlying unconscious biases are at play here, which is a general issue within recruitment that may not be so easy to address.

        It’s interesting to hear your thoughts on name-blind employment. I hadn’t considered that perhaps it’s the early screening stages of recruitment where discriminatory biases have the greatest impact, so in that respect, name-blind employment is certainly a positive step forward.

        Taking all this into consideration, it seems as though the emphasis is on the employers and recruiters. But what about candidates? As we discovered in topic 3, there is a lot that candidates can do to ensure that their social profiles are appropriate and professional. Personally, for the very reason of social media screening, I ensure that even my personal profiles are acceptable and do not contain any information that could be harmful. However, this again raises ethical issues relating to privacy, something that Glenn Greenwald spoke of in the video you shared. He expresses that we shouldn’t have to continuously monitor our profiles in fear of personal information being misinterpreted. What is your take on this issue? Do you try to regulate your social profiles for employment reasons or do you think that we should be able to feel a sense of privacy?

        Thanks again,


      2. Hi again,

        I do agree with you that social media screening, regardless of care taken to reduce issues, is likely to always involve some form of bias.

        And as for blind employment, it too can only go so far as these underlying biases are likely to remain in latter stages of the recruitment processes, but it may be a step in the right direction.

        I’m glad you’ve touched upon the role of candidates – in my prezi slideshow, my ‘verdict’ section summarised by suggesting that whist employers have a responsibility to be fair and ethical, what you share online and in social media is your own choice. You have the right to not post anything, have a private account, or even use professional accounts to your advantage by, as you said, exploring the utilisation of social media we discussed in Topic 3.

        Your comment reflects one of the key debates or ‘balances’ that my post highlighted. Whilst you have this ‘choice’, is it really a choice? We are having to constantly monitor ourselves to risk misinterpretation, and to avoid job losses.

        Again, this brings in new ethical considerations – what about the responsibilities of employees to uphold company values? We need to monitor ourselves to a certain extent to avoid risking damaging business reputation. This is an issue discussed in David’s post

        Clearly social media and ethics is a big topic encompassing many elements!

        Many thanks,


  2. Hi Scott, first well done on a really interesting blog!

    I really liked the use of the videos, particularly the Gary Greenwald one addressing the issues of mass surveillance. Also, I found your infographic and Prezi very informative!
    Maybe as a note of constructive criticism you might want to use less words in both the Prezi and infographic.

    I find Van Iddeking study particularly interesting in their being no correlation between the suitability for the candidate gauged in the interview and that of the screening process! I see you clearly outweigh the pros and cons regarding the use of screening and it being unethical but somewhat necessary. So would you suggest that companies continue to use screening in order to whittle out the candidates or would you like for screening to be completely eradicated? Whilst it can provide a glimpse of ones personality I feel that people can very easily act with a different persona online, when they have the security of being masked behind the screen (relating to the topic of multiple identities). For example, online it is very hard to gauge ones confidence levels in real life. Would you agree with this?

    I look forward to hearing back from you and all the best!



  3. Hi Jordan,

    Thank you for your comment! In terms of constructive criticism, I do agree that my visuals could’ve been more ‘visual’ – primarily the final infographic. However, with 3 essays due prior I had limited time – although this is something I will try to work around in my next post, so thank you.

    I found the prezi really effective at mapping out ideas and an overall argument, and I also found it, despite being text based, to be visual through its links, divisions and movements. It would be hard to incorporate images throughout due to the large size, but if I use it again I will try to involve a few.

    In response to your question, I think you’ve highlighted the key debate. Personally, I can see how social media screening can be effective at selecting those who carry themselves well online and consider their image, characteristics recruiters may want employees to have in the work place too. However, as you’ve suggested, people are differently in real life and so interviews provide a better assessment. I wouldn’t completely rule out social media screening as a process, but recruiters should understand the risks of discrimination that may enforce, and the inauthenticity online personas can often carry. However, people often display a different professional persona In interviews and in the workplace, so would an online professional persona go some way in suggesting how individuals may carry themselves offline? The debate is clearly a complex one! But I would agree with you and I am somewhat wary of the process.

    Thanks Jordan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can completely understand where you’re coming from, with all these deadlines during this time of the year! Like I said I personally found all sources to be informative and useful myself so well done!

      In terms of the argument I agree this probably is a key one to recruiter in this day in age. Like you said it would be key characteristics that employers would look for, but maybe someone who has only just stepped into a new industry is better qualified but their online presence before may ruled them out of a job, albeit this was a completely new lifestyle they are stepping into and thus weren’t to know.
      I think, it all comes down to finding an effective replacement for screening. If only there were ways to teach computers to identity emotive behaviours such as humour!

      Thanks for the reply, look forwards to following your future blogs!


      1. Yes it was a tough week haha, & Thank you, I appreciate it!

        And I agree that these are key problems – How true is someone’s online presence / how representative is it? & how fair is this method of screening?

        Once again, thanks for your comment and discussion!



  4. Hi Scott,

    Thanks again for your response!

    I really like the way you incorporated the idea of ‘choice’ in your Prezi slideshow. I think this neatly encapsulates a lot of what we have explored in the module so far, in that we each have a choice on how we engage with the web and a choice as to what personal information we make available online.

    In terms of whether this is really a choice, whilst I understand the ethical issues of having to constantly monitor ourselves, this kind of self-monitoring may not be too different from what we do in our everyday offline lives. The issue here is, whilst we may wish to segregate personal and professional identities online as we do offline, the very nature of the web means that these lines are inevitably blurred.

    Thank you for sharing with me David’s post. In the same way that we manage our online profiles to uphold our personal reputation, I agree that we also have a responsibility to uphold the reputation of companies we work for. I think the most important aspect regarding this issue is for businesses to have social media policies in place that clearly outline the do’s and don’ts. If you’re interested in exploring this area further, this article discusses some of the key considerations to be made.

    Thanks again,


    1. Hi again Patricia,

      I’m glad you touched upon the other side of ‘choice’ – that this form of self-monitoring associated with our online accounts is not dissimilar to how we carry ourselves offline – something I covered in my post on multiple online identities a few weeks back. Maybe employers have a right to check our social media accounts to see how we are controlling our social media accounts and profiles online as this could indicate how we may manage our offline personas. This is actually a side of the social media screening argument I didn’t consider in my blog post but definitely agree with you on. I also agree with your view on social media policies, something I took out of David’s post as a necessity to avoid!

      I have really gained from our discussion here and in previous comments and so i’ll make sure to check out your future posts too!

      Many thanks,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. makes perfect sense. I’m on a quest to change into a better person so I can be happy with my life. It involves learning to think outside my box, be open, accepting and inviting to new exeeriencps. Learning to have more compassion, empathy and love. Picking life over death without needing to impose on anyone, kill anything living: including trees and animals and learning to love my earth because without it I can’t live. I pick LIFE.


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