This report is the reflection of the ethical position of Facebook as a Company. The Company is found to have developed significantly favorable standards of ethics for its internal and external stakeholders. However, there seems to have been some issues regarding non-contemporary issues like research ethics in social media. If this area of ethics is addressed well, there would be no area of ethical trauma for the Company.
The founder of Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg, who was only 23 when he founded the preliminary form of Facebook. The launch was done in the year 2004, and after its overnight success, there was no turning back for the innovative idea. The establishment of Facebook.com happened only in 2005 when the deal for purchase of the address was made for $200,000 (Phillips, 2007). Today, Facebook is the largest virtual community on the internet, and the Company is bound by ethical and other considerations given its global share of the audience (Hamilton, 2011).
The analysis of the ethical position of Facebook could be started by assessing the corporate culture at the company. While assessing this, there are two factors for Facebook that can be considered. The first is the Company’s code of ethics. The second is the Innovation Culture at the Company.
The code of ethics for Facebook had not been properly developed even until recently. It was a few years back that the ethical environment of the Company is being given much importance. That is why all the important issues and possible interest situation guidelines have been included in the code of ethics of the Company. The particulars of the Facebook code of ethics are conflicts of interest, communications, public disclosures, financial integrity and responsibility, confidential information, protection of user data, protection and use of Facebook assets, compliance with laws, reporting violations, policy prohibiting retaliation, and amendment and waivers (Code of Conduct – Facebook, 2016).
The Innovation culture at the Company is one of the indicators that the Company keeps its ethical position in check. These aspects of the innovation culture hugely and favorably affect the ethical culture in the organization. The first aspect of the innovation culture is to encourage everyone. This means that learning by making is always promoted. The involvement of top management in the design and delivery of new products is quite high which means that there are nominal chances of ethical breaches independently at the lower level (Kiltzman, 2014). The sense of equality that is instilled in all of Facebook employees could also be taken as an indicator of a good ethical culture.
The second aspect is having a winning mobile strategy. This means that the system for only practicing what is essential is well maintained. The strategies used for capturing the customer base are genuine. The focus is not to just maximize revenue for to optimize customer experience for maximum revenue.
The third aspect is the periodic mixing up of work environment on an even basis. Openness and collaboration are established as the pillars of the working culture. The rotation of ideas is very high, which keeps everyone involved in engineering and management at the tip of their toes and there is no room for deviating from the original moral code of conduct (Jana, 2013).
However; despite these considerations, there have been a few ethical issues in which the Company has been involved. One of such controversies was in 2012 when the Company conducted a survey among its customers and published the results. The research was termed by many critics as “a psychology experiment” (Phipps, 2016). The sample size was about 700,000 users, and the survey was done to study the effects of positive and negative news on responses.
One of such critics, a Law professor argued that the research is illegal and beyond ethical lines because the participants of the research had not given any types of formal consent, which would be a requirement as per federal law, the high generalizability of Facebook’s Data Use Policy and the possible loss to some of the users because of the experiment.
Facebook has been accused of experimenting with its customers in the past too. The results of the research and studies are then shared with social scientists, which makes it an issue. It has been criticized to the extent that New York Times called Facebook to be the “petri dish for the social sciences” (Arthur & Swaine, 2014).
There seems to be well maintained corporate culture and code of ethics in Facebook Company for internal employees. However, a higher amount of consideration is required when dealing with the external affiliates like Facebook customers. Since the virtual and original behavior of individuals may differ, the level of tolerances may be misjudged. The research conducted by Facebook is not proven to be a law breach; however some regulations may have been ignored.
There should be consent from Facebook to follow the federal level guidelines. There could be the submission of Company studies for review from an independent and well-known IRB. Children should not be included in such types of experiments which are widely termed as mood-manipulations. This is easy for Facebook as the age of the surveyed is mentioned.
Facebook as an organization is in the constant eye of its internal and external stakeholders. Despite the fact that the company has tried its best to maintain ethical standards and is conscious on the generally practiced ethical norms, it needs to focus or rather refocus on areas where the sensitivity is high. With such high brand image, a little bit more consideration on non-contemporary ethical issues can help enhance brand loyalty and salience.
Arthur, C., & Swaine, J. (2014). Facebook faces criticism amid claims it breached ethical guidelines with study. the Guardian. Retrieved 30 March 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/30/facebook-internet
Hamilton, D. (2011, September 13). Top 10 Companies’ Code of Ethics and Conduct | Dr. Diane Hamilton's Blog. Retrieved from https://drdianehamilton.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/top-10-companies%E2%80%99-code-of-ethics-and-conduct-2011/
Jana, R. (2013, March 7). Inside Facebook’s Internal Innovation Culture [Harvard Business Review]. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2013/03/inside-facebooks-internal-inno
Klitzman, R. (2014, July 7). Why Facebook Should Follow Ethical Standards -- LIke Everybody Else. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-klitzman-md/why-facebook-needs-to-fol_b_5557862.html
Phillips, S. (2007). A brief history of Facebook. the Guardian. Retrieved 30 March 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2007/jul/25/media.newmedia
Phipps, S. (2016). Facebook's big problem: Ethical blindness. InfoWorld. Retrieved 30 March 2016, from http://www.infoworld.com/article/2608257/techology-business/facebook-s-big-problem--ethical-blindness.html