Social media is a term used to refer to a combination of technology assisted and online channels of communication, whereby people who are connected are able to share content, interact and even collaborate (Wigmore, 2012). In other words, social networks are a method of interaction among individuals in which they create and share ideas over the network and virtual communities. These communities or major social networks are named below. The major applications and websites that are committed to these types of communication include social networking, micro-blogging, social bookmarking, wikis and social curations (Wigmore, 2012).
These websites have defined the future of communication because they are based on various internet arrays and tools which create a platform of communication, as well as enhancing of information sharing (Angela, 2013). The social media has made easy exchange of multimedia (videos, photos and even audio) among those who are connected. Social media is not only for friendship, but it has now found new roles, for example, in the field of business. The numbers of information technology experts are even researching on more ways through which the social media can be used to facilitate business activities. The major social network or media platforms are presented below.
The first social medium is the Blog, which is considered as a casual dialogue and discussion platform (Wigmore, 2012). They enable people to discuss particular opinions and topics. The second social medium is Facebook. It is a social network which allows users to create personal profiles then connect with other users who are referred to as friends. The friends then are able to communicate and interact through updating of status and posting of comments on their friends' status. It also allows Companies as well as brands to create pages where people can like and be able to receive their communications. It allows also for posting of photos, sending of texts and multimedia contents, thereby enabling advertisement. As per the year 2013, Facebook had a total number of 1.15 billion global users. Another major social media is Twitter, which is a social networking as well as a platform for micro-blogging where groups and individuals can interact through posting of brief posts referred to as tweets (Wigmore, 2012). The fourth social medium is the You Tube which allows people to post and watch various types of videos. It operates in the same way as another type of social medium known as Flickr. Flickr has the ability to share photos with Facebook and twitter (Wigmore, 2012). The last but not the final social medium I am going to discuss is the LinkedIn. The LinkedIn enables a group of professionals with a common interest to connect and share information relating to their field. The email (Gmail and Yahoo Mail), Instagram and Wikis is also considered social media.
The ethical Social and Legal issues relevant to the topic
Ethics and codes of conduct are those guidelines to behavioral characteristics of members of a given profession (Berman, 2014). It helps them determine and differentiate between what is right and wrong. Each and every profession has its unique set of ethics and codes of conduct. At the center of this question, and particularly this section, are ethics and codes of conduct in relation to communication. Social media has greatly revolutionized communication in every profession. This section of the paper discusses the ethical, social and legal issues arising various professions as a result of embracing the social media as a tool of communication.
Nursing is one of the major economic sectors in every country. Therefore, it has greatly been influenced by the technological advancements of the 21st century. Communication is the key factor in this sector, and in order to communicate effectively among nursing practitioners, new technology ought to be embraced, hence the implementation of social media among nursing practitioners. There are many ways through which social media has been useful in the nursing sector. In the nursing sector, social media has been used in many ways, for example, strengthening and increasing the professional relationship among nursing practitioners, provision of communication in a timely manner, and also for the provision of other, but very valuable communication among all stakeholders in the healthcare sector namely; patients, family members of patients, nursing practitioners and even owners of health providing facilities. Amidst all these practices, there are codes and ethics that should be considered. For example, according to (A Bord Altranais, 2002) the 2002 Health Insurance and Portability Act states that the privacy of a patient should be protected by the health care providers.
The Nurses Act has also set standards for practice and the education of its members, but with a major aim of serving the interest and meeting the expectations of the public (Nurses Association of New Brunswick, 2012). However, research shows that the level of privacy and security of information that is exchanged over the social media is very low. The wide use of technology assisted modes of communication (social platforms) has blurred the boundary of what people consider public or private, and this has become a major ethical issue among nursing practitioners. Despite the aforementioned benefits of using social media as a tool of communication, has tampered with the nursing code of privacy and confidentiality. Many nurses have found themselves posting information about their work, their patients and other activities, which according to their codes of behavior should be kept private (Allison, 2013). This has the effect of compromising the trust that people have on nursing practitioners.
Professionally, in the nursing sector, it is unethical to share the information relating to patients (Nurses Association of New Brunswick, 2012). Doing this over the social media is a breach of contract among nurses, and the involved nurse is held responsible for his or her own acts. The one who breaches this contract will be held responsible the profession, client and employer. In the event that one goes against the codes of behavior, particularly that of confidentiality, he or she will face tough legal consequences. There are cases where information that individual posts comes to haunt them in the future. There are also other cases where employers' runs through the social media profiles of their employees, and when they find posts that portray the Company in a negative image, the employee may lose his/her job.
The law society is also a victim of the social media platform, both ethically and professionally (Gunnarson, 2011). Ethically, a law should not release any type of information regarding the client before, during and after a court case, unless with the consent of the client. However, lawyers are able to employ several methods over the internet in order to dig out information that is related to their opposing parties. A number of these methods do not compromise ethical rules among law practitioners. However, sending friend requests to members of the opposing parties directly or through the use of another person (Surrogate) is a violation of the ethical codes of conduct among lawyers. If a lawyer is caught in this act, he or she will not be able to convince members of the public that he/she did that without having an interest of getting information about the presented or non-presented party. This leads to legal consequences, and the culprit may even lose his job. Therefore, lawyers should not in any way attempt to follow witnesses or plaintiffs over the social network at any cost. This is a violation of the law ethics and codes of conduct (Gilligan, 2011).
Despite the aforementioned factors, lawyers can proceed to post statements about the proceedings of the cases that they are presiding over under two major conditions. Firstly, the statements should be posted with the consent of the individual that the lawyer is representing. This is because lawyers have a duty to protect the confidentiality of all information regarding their clients, and the publication of any information that is exposing them to the public is a serious violation of the ethical codes and standards of law practitioners. Secondly, lawyers should not make any statement that leads to contempt of court (Klein, 2013). In order to ensure a fair trial process, there should be no any sort of influence on the jurors who are handling the case. Therefore, lawyers should not in any way make comments that will alter the minds of judges and eventually influencing the decision making in the court room over the social media.
Another major social and ethical issue arising in the law practicing sector is the friendship between lawyers and judges over the social media. The point of contention has been whether these two parties have the right to remain friends over social network platforms. In this profession, there is a limit to friendship; lawyers and judges are not allowed to be friends over the social media (Gilligan, 2011). However, this is not the true reflection of what is actually happening in this profession. Despite this fact, there are many lawyers and judges who are friends over the various available social media. Due to this, there has had been several occasion whereby the judgment of the jurors has been influenced to biasness as a result of this type of friendships over the network.
Technological advancement of the 21st century has to a great extent revolutionized business operation. This is because over the social media, advertisements for products and job vacancy are carried out. Despite the fact that social media has been ranked as a very successful platform for advertisements, there are cases whereby those who carry out these advertisements engage in malpractices. There are those who give misleading information about the products that they are making known to the members of the public (Klein, 2013).
The limits and vulnerabilities of the technologies
The growth in the level of technological advancement in the 21st century is a major leading factor towards the growth in the number of users of social media. The increased usage has exposed a number of limits and vulnerabilities of the technology of social media. For example, Calvet (2010) argues that the increased use of cyber space come along with both positively and negatively on social, economic, cultural, and political aspects of every society. The cyberspace has provided secure tools and spaces where every willing individual can interact with others. This has enabled people to enjoy their freedom of expression, information, privacy of communication and interaction with old and new friends. However, the same benefits of anonymity and privacy also extend to ill-minded individuals who employ Information and Communication Technologies for criminal activities and use the internet to commit violence. This has led to events like cyber bullying. These events are witnessed due to the limitation and vulnerabilities associated with internet and social network technologies. This section discusses these limits and vulnerabilities and how they affect users.
Majority of these social media websites, for example, Facebook, do not allow users to see those who are viewing their profiles. This encourages instances of stalking, leaving one vulnerable to possible attack. This is one of the major factors contributing to widespread cases of cyber bullying. Cyber bullying which is defined as an aggressive, intentional behavior which is carried out by a group or an individual, using electronic forms of contact, for example, the social media platforms, repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself (Smith et al., 2008). Cyber bullying is, therefore, a repeated and intentional bullying using medium of technologies, such as the Internet and cell phones (West Virginia University, 2012). It mainly occurs over the social networks where users are able to create a profile, connect it to profiles of others and create a personal network where they are able to interact freely. Cyber bullying inflicts a lot of psychological and emotional harm on the victims, and thus can lead to the commission of suicide. It may also lead to violent behavior, for example, if the cyber bully decides to physically-attack their victim. This is because, humiliating messages and video do spread fast and cause more harm. According to Liepe-Levinson and Levinson (2005), one out of every four children is bullied per month, and 160,000 children miss school for fear of being bullied every day. Some victims are targeted because they are overweight, physically weak, intelligent, or just unpopular. Bullying generally starts with verbal abuse such as teasing, name-calling, taunting and rumor spreading. The Columbine Massacre was the first of many major incidents involving bullying, and forced everyone to take bullying seriously.
Webmail became vulnerable to hackers who would intrude into the accounts of users (Peter, 2013). Facebook, twitter and email accounts can be invaded by ill intended individuals with ill intention. This leads to exposure of private information of the account holder against his/her own wish. This is risky because confidential information of the victim may go viral over the internet, an event that will negatively affect the account holder. A large population of social media users does not fully understand the security settings of their Facebook accounts. This begins with the protection of their personal computers by using internet firewall. Another level of insecurity of these accounts, particularly foe emailing services and Facebook account holders, are vulnerable to spamming. These are messages that may contain harmful viruses which when opened may lead to the crush of the user's personal computer (Beth, 2014). The event of a computer crash leads to the loss of useful data and personal information of the victim.
Another major limitation of that is associated with face book and other emailing services like yahoo and webmail services as social media is their limited size of the file which they can upload over the network. For example, Webmail services have limited the amount of the data that it can upload to a maximum of 25MB (Beth, 2014). This also translates to the size of the emails and messages that they can allow at one single time. This forces users to delete messages from their inbox, an event that may lead to the loss of important messages because users need to create space for incoming messages. Twitter has also limited the amount of words that users can key into less than 150 words. This limits users from fully expressing themselves because they are forced to shorten their words. This may lead to miscommunication.
Communication through social networks is dependent to the internet connection (Beth, 2014). They cannot not be able to operate offline; therefore, all users will require be to have an internet connection so as to access enjoy these services. Due to this, the use of social media is limited only to those places where internet connection is available. Otherwise, one will be forced to use broadband. In the event of poor internet connectivity, all users of social media will be frustrated. This is because communication will be very slow leading to delays even during urgent communication processes. Facebook, as well as twitter, will be slow while opening of the web pages. Those using YouTube will also be irritated because the process of downloading and streaming of files will be very slow. It is, therefore, necessary that for smooth use of social media, which there are very reliable internet connectivity for all users.
Lack of strict rules and regulations governing the social media has also contributed to the posting of explicit multimedia content (Beth, 2014). On YouTube, there are much blue film materials which can be accessed by any individual regardless of age. The age limit of face book is also very low, currently standing at thirteen years. All individuals who are registered at this early teenage are exposed to adult content that are posted online. This leads to widespread moral decay in the society.
How to avoid Online Ethical Issues
According to Harvey, McCoy and Sneath (2014), one way of avoiding online ethical issues is to avoid publication of statements that are false or misleading to members of the public. Another way is to avoid disclosing of private and confidential information, for example, nursing and law practitioners should protect information relating to their clients. For lawyers, they should avoid friending presented or non-presented parties. There should be no creation of a relationship between the attorneys' and the clients. Doing so leads to legal consequences, and the law practitioner involved may even lose his job. Therefore, lawyers should not in any way attempt to follow witnesses or plaintiffs over the social network at any cost. This is a violation of the law ethics and codes of conduct (Gilligan, 2011).
The technical team and the creators of the social media platforms, particularly Facebook, should rise the age limiting for registering to the site from thirteen to eighteen years. This will ensure that more mature individuals register to this site.
All the social media sites should come up with a means of allowing users to see the individuals who view their profiles. This will enhance the state of security, as well as dealing with the case of cyber bullying.
The creators of social media sites should come up with a means of instantly blocking the explicit and blue film materials that may be posted online. This will help deal with the issue of immorality caused by the widespread use of social media.
Social media as a tool for communication has to a great extent revolutionized communication. It is everyone's right to exploit the benefits of social media regardless. However, care should be taken so as to avoid the social, ethical and legal issues that may arise as a result of misusing this tool. All that users need to do is to understand the ethical and codes of standard that are governing the various professions so that they avoid the events of violating the described guidelines. Each and every user need to uphold the rule of confidentiality and privacy.
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