Digital and Social Media Ethics

Given the high rate of social media use by the public, organizations are compelled to engage with key audiences through these outlets. Social media engagement requires organizations to actively participate with public groups, and this highly-interactive exchange raises a new set of ethical concerns for communicators.

In this rapidly changing communications environment, the long-term implications of social media are uncertain and much research is needed to understand its impact on audiences and organizations. The Arthur W. Page Center has an ongoing initiative to help address questions of social media ethics.

Read more about our digital and social media research on the Page Center blog.

2016/2017 Call: Digital Media

Outcomes to date

At the 2018 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference in Washington D.C. scholars Kirstie Hettinga, California Lutheran University and Alyssa Appelman, Northern Kentucky University, will present “Errors and Corrections in Digital News Content.

Projects funded

“Strategic CSR Communication in Social Media: The Effectiveness of Stakeholder Information, Engagement and Hybrid Strategies when Factoring Corporate Reputation” Yeonsoo Kim, James Madison University

“Era of Social Interaction and Social Judgment: Increasing Publics' Involvement and Empowerment Through Social Media” Moon J. Lee and Jun Wong Chun, University of Florida

“Building Support for the Elderly: Using Age-Morphing Technology to Motivate Millennials and Generation X” Eunice Kim, Linda Hon and Ah-Ram Lee, University of Florida

“CEO Ghost Posting: Ethics and Effects on Employee Perceptions and Organization-Employee Relationships” Tom Kelleher, Rita Linjuan Men and Patrick Thelen, University of Florida

“Measuring the Impact of Authentic and Dialogic CSR Communication on Online Brand Community Engagement” Joon Soo Lim and Hua Jiang, Syracuse University

“Emotion Contagion and Stakeholder Engagement on Nonprofit Organizations' Facebook Sites” Zongchao Cathy Li, San Jose State Unviersity; Yi Grace Ji, Virginia Commonwealth University; Zifei Fay Chen, University of San Francisco ; Weiting Tao and Don Stacks, University of Miami

“Understanding the Social Media Engagement and Relationship Outcomes of Mobile Corporate Social Responsibility” Yang Cheng, North Carolina State University; Yan Jin, University of Georgia; Flora Hung-Baesecke, Massey University, and Regina Y. R. Chen, Hong Kong Baptist University

“Exploring Practices and Implications of Digital Public Relations Engagement with Low-Income Publics” Katie R. Place, Quinnipiac University
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“Walking the Walk or Just Talking the Talk: Digital Media, Dialogue, and Ethical Communication with Diverse Publics” Erica Ciszek, University of Houston
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“Social Care: Building Organizational Credibility with Key Publics Through Social Media” Karen Freberg, University of Louisville, and Carolyn Kim, Biola University
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“Posting and Snapping about Wall and Travel Ban: Designing Ethical Social Media Strategies for Visual Messaging on Immigration Issues” Marcus Messner, Jeanine Guidry and Jay Adams, Virginia Commonwealth University

“How Virtual Reality Engages Publics: The Role of Presence, Authenticity and Emotions” Ming (Bryan) Wang, University of Nebraska

“Exploring the Role of Social Media Usage in Creating an Engaged Workplace” Michele E. Ewing, Kent State University, Rita Linjuan Men, University of Florida, and Julie O’Neil, Kent State University

“Errors and Corrections in Digital News Content” Kirstie Hettinga, California Lutheran University, and Alyssa Appelman, Northern Kentucky University
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“Building Social Capital through Social Media in Public Relations” Hilary Fussell Sisco, Quinnipiac University

“A ‘Crucial Catch’: Examining Sports Fans' Response to Corporate Social Responsibility Messaging on Social Media” Michael Devlin and Kim Sheehan, Texas State University

“The Use of Influence Tactics by Public Relations Practitioners to Provide Ethics Counsel” Marlene Neill, Baylor University

“Enhancing Control Mutuality: The Role of Authenticity on Nonprofits' Relationship Management on Social Media” Diana Sisson, Auburn University

Read the call for proposals


2012/2013 Call: Social Media

Ethical Practicd of Social Media in Public Relations Book CoverIn 2012-2013 the Center funded a research and case study book that featured the best of social media ethics. The book, edited by Marcia DiStaso and Denise Bortree, featured a foreword by Brian Solis. Below are the book chapters and authors.

Ethical Practice of Social Media in Public Relations

Foreword: Social Media is Lost without a Social Compass
Brian Solis

Marcia DiStaso and Denise Bortree

Chapter 1: Openness and Disclosure in Social Media Efforts: A Frank Discussion with Fortune 500 and Philanthropy 400 Communication Leaders
Richard D. Waters

Chapter 2: Considerations Regarding Ghost Blogging and Ghost Commenting
Tiffany Derville Gallicano, Thomas H. Bivens, and Yoon Y. Cho

Chapter 3: Bank of America’s Facebook Engagement Challenges its Claims of “High Ethical Standards”
Marcia W. DiStaso

Chapter 4: Natural or Not? A Case Study of Kashi’s Viral Photo Crisis on Facebook
Hillary Fussell Sisco

Chapter 5: Private Conversations on Public Forums: How Organizations are Strategically Monitoring Conversations and Engaging Stakeholders on Social Media Sites
Tina McCorkindale

Chapter 6: To Tweet or Not to Tweet: An Analysis of Ethical Guidelines for the Social Media Engagement of Nonprofit Organizations
Marcus Messner

Chapter 7: Social Media as a CSR Communication Channel: The Current State of Practice
Kati Tusinski Berg and Kim Bartel Sheehan

Chapter 8: Corporate Social Responsibility in Environmental Crisis: A Case Study of BP’s YouTube Response to the Deepwater Horizon Crisis
Denise Sevick Bortree

Chapter 9: Nestle and Greenpeace: The Battle in Social Media for Ethical Palm Oil Sourcing
W. Timothy Coombs

Chapter 10: Coca-Cola, Community, Diversity, and Cosmopolitanism: How Public Relations Builds Global Trust and Brand Relevance with Social Media
Nneka Logan and Natalie T.J. Tindall

Chapter 11: The Dialogic Potential of Social Media: Assessing Ethical Reasoning of Companies’ Public Relations on Facebook and Twitter
Angela M. Lee, Homero Gill De Zuniga, Renita Coleman, and Thomas J. Johnson

Chapter 12: Journalists and Corporate Blogs: Identifying Markers of Credibility
Kirsten A. Johnson and Tamara L. Gillis

Chapter 13: Authority Crisis Communication vs. Discussion Forums: Swine Flu
Paivi M Tirkkonen and Vilma Luoma-Aho

Chapter 14: Government Gone Wild: Ethics, Reputation, and Social Media
Kaye D. Sweetser

Chapter 15: Understanding the Ethical and Research Implications of Social Media
Shannon A. Bowen and Don W. Stacks

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of this book, it can be found on Amazon.


Open Calls

2015/2016: "Guiding the conversation: A study of PR practitioner expectations for nonnominated employees' social media use" by Justin Walden, North Dakota State University. Published in Corporate Communications: An International Journal" (2018)
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