Topic 4: Ethics of Social Networks

There are numerous ethically challenging aspects of social media use that we, as internet users, should be concerned about while we are active online. Some of the ethical issues, to name a few, are anonymity, cyberbullying, the monitoring of current or future employees and identity theft. Cyberbullying in one of its forms was explored briefly in Topic 3, in the case of Justine Sacco (Ronson, 2015) where we explored whether the “right to free speech” (The Guardian, 2014) was should be compromised to prevent social media posts being offensive. In this topic, we will look into the evolving problem of identity theft for young people.

Identity theft is the act of wrongfully using someone’s personal information, especially in a way that is fraudulent (US Department of Justice, 2017). Online identity theft refers to the theft of a person’s personal information by online means, for example obtaining personal information from social media. Since the internet is relatively new, so is the problem of online identity theft and fraud. It is an issue that is also explored in the MTV show Catfish (2012). The show is mainly aimed at exposing some of the deceitful relationships and friendships that can ensue online. However, the underlying message is to show that there are risks of your online identity being used fraudulently and also of someone using a false identity to manipulate you, especially on social networks.

Figure 1: the trailer for Catfish: The TV Show 

Potential identity theft is a big problem for young people who are avid users of social media, not solely for entertainment purposes but also for educational use. Liu (2010) argues that social media can be used as a tool, not only for learning but also for teaching. Here are some examples of how social media can be used in an educational arena:

Figure 2: Video on social media and how it is used for educational purposes

Arguably, the burgeoning problem of identity theft online could become more of a problem worldwide since the digital divide is weakening.


Figure 3: Infographic showing some facts on the digital divide

More people are gaining internet access, and while these developments present more opportunity for positive interaction, they also create a wider space of possibility for young people’s information to be taken advantage of.

With all this in mind, the question is: who is responsible for the protection of our information online. Glenn Greenwald (2014) highlights that privacy is important, which is necessary on all social media accounts, not just if you have something to hide. Who is protecting us online?


Figure 4: Infographic showing some points to consider of who is responsible for dealing with online identity theft

Word Count: 394


BI Intelligence (2016, August 5) 99% of young British people use social media every week. Business Insider. [Accessed: 24 March 2017]

Compaine, B. M. (2001). The digital divide: Facing a crisis or creating a myth?. Mit Press.

Chaffey, D., (2017, February 27) Global social media research summary 2017. Smart Insights. [Accessed: 24 March 2017]

Edudemic (2015, January 12) How to Use Social Media as a Learning Tool. [Accessed: 24 March 2017]

Greenwald, G., (2014) Why privacy matters. Ted Talks. [Accessed: 26 March 2017]

Kelion, L., (2013, October 7) UK jumps up internet scoreboard as digital divide grows. BBC News. [Accessed: 24 March 2017]

Kleinman, Z., (2015, March 5) Who’s that girl? The curious case of Leah Palmer. BBC News. [Accessed: 24 March 2017]

Liu, Y. (2010). Social media tools as a learning resource. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange3(1)

The Guardian (2014, January 24) Twitter abuse: easy on the messenger. [Accessed: 24 March 2017]

The United States Department of Justice (2017, February 7) Identity Theft. [Accessed: 25 March 2017]

Ronson, J., (2015, February 12) How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life. NY Times. [Accessed: 12 March 2017]

Wakefield, J., (2016, June 15) Social media ‘outstrips TV’ as news source for young people. BBC News. [Accessed: 24 March 2017]

Figure 1: [Max Joseph] (2012, October 26) CATFISH: THE TV SHOW TRAILER. (Video File) [Accessed: 24 March 2017]

Featured image & Figures 2-4: Self produced


11 thoughts on “Topic 4: Ethics of Social Networks

  1. Hi Louise,

    I really enjoyed reading your post as well as, exploring all the images that you have produced. I loved how you built on your ideas of the digital divided by using accurate and timely facts to back up your argument.

    In regard to your question of: who is responsible for the protection of our information online? I agree with Glenn Greenwald’s (2014) ideology that privacy on social media is a very important matter. I would go further to agree with statements that were made in his Ted Talk that, large corporations such as Facebook and Google should be protective of their consumer’s privacy as they are of their own personal privacy. However, when posting our own thoughts on social media platforms, despite the idea that such a platform enables us to have freedom of speech, we do instil a filter. Therefore, when posting on social media we must ensure that we only release information that is not located in our private fact file.

    From Mary

    Word count: 163.

    Greenwald, G. (2014). Why privacy matters. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 April. 2017].

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mary,
      Thank you very much for your kind comments, I am glad you enjoyed reading my post this week. With regards to the question, I definitely appreciate your response and I think that the big corporations and companies that we trust with our information in the first place should be help culpable for how our information is used more. Often times there are clasues embedded in the long terms and conditions of sites such as Facebook that relinquish all their responsibility if our information is used wrongly and therefore we have no choice but to protect ourselves.
      Thanks again for your detailed comment.


  2. Hi Louise,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog post this week. I like the fact that you focused on identity theft as it is an increasing security and ethical rick that comes with the usage of the internet. The use of the images and videos to demonstrate your points made the post more exciting to read and kept my attention.

    Regarding your final question of are we solely responsible for what we post online being used unlawfully? I would argue that our online privacy is a large factor, there are so many different privacy settings on all forms of social media, however in my opinion now more than ever I am being asked for more information when I log into any social media account, which I feel is unnecessary. I believe that the website, such as Facebook or Twitter should take some responsibility in determining if something is appropriate to post, I know that a person can report what they have seen if something has been wrongfully posted, but I feel there is a need for greater control.

    Concerning the Guardians point that Twitter should not be responsible for the abuse that trolls post, I believe that to say the same for identity theft would be wrong, it would need to be a joint effort of both the victim and Twitter to find who has been stealing the identity of another. However, as I pointed out before I do believe that social media websites are now asking too much information of a person that can be easily accessed by others, therefore making identity theft easier.



  3. Hi Louise!
    I really enjoyed reading your post this week. The use of images and videos to get your point across I found very interesting and helpful!
    In your last question, are we responsible for our content online being used unlawfully?
    I believe to a degree yes we are, as what we post comes under our privacy. We choose our privacy settings and if not set correctly that content can be shared. However, I think it is unfair to hold responsibility on the individual when their content is taken out of context. As Glenn Greenwald’s (2014) states, privacy online is a very important matter. How do you respond?

    Ps if my hyperlinks aren’t working I apologise, having trouble!


  4. Vicki Groch – Jennings: You captured all of Italy with such aryittrs!!! Two years ago Hank & I walked many of the same streets and alleys you and your family walked and it was soooo much fun to see them again. Loved it all. Thanks for sharing. Vicki


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