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Ethics for a Digital Age, Vol. II

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Edited By Bastiaan Vanacker and Don Heider

The second volume of Ethics for a Digital Age contains a selection of research presented at the fifth and sixth Annual International Symposia on Digital Ethics hosted by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication. Thematically organized around the most pressing ethical issues of the digital age from a professional (parts one and two) and a philosophical perspective (part three), the chapters of this volume offer the reader a window into some of the hot-button ethical issues facing a society where digital has become the new normal. Just as was the case in the first volume, this collection attempts to bridge applied and theoretical approaches to digital ethics. The case studies in this work are grounded in theory and the theoretical pieces are linked back to specific cases, reflecting the multi-methodological and multi-disciplinarian approach espoused by Loyola’s Center of Digital Ethics and Policy during its eight years of existence. With contributions by experts from a variety of academic disciplines, this work will appeal to philosophers, communication scientists, and moral philosophers alike.

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3. Corporate Response to Employee Social Media Missteps: A Rhetorical and Ethical Lens (Heidi A. Mckee / James E. Porter)

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3.  Corporate Response to Employee Social Media Missteps: A Rhetorical and Ethical Lens*

HEIDI A. MCKEE AND JAMES E. PORTER

Social media will continue to challenge and change laws, regulations, business practices, and the nature of the employee/employer relationship. Until the dust settles—and that will not be for many years—employers and employees alike are better off proceeding with caution. There are many landmines waiting for companies and workers in our new and evolving social era.

—Augie Ray (2012), Director of Social Media at Prudential Financial

The intense use of social media by companies and employees raises complex ethical issues. In this chapter we focus on one particular ethical issue involving corporate social media: social media missteps by employees and how corporations respond to those missteps.

Media headlines, U.S. National Labor Relation Board rulings, and innumerable legal cases today are replete with examples of employees getting themselves and/or their employers into legal, ethical, and reputational controversies because of social media missteps: tweets meant as jokes that fall terribly flat (Justine Sacco being one example, as we will discuss); the right photo used at the wrong time (Ford’s advertising vehicles alongside their Boston Marathon bombing tweet); McDonald’s ill-conceived use of a hashtag (#McDStories) that the public co-opted to criticize the fast food chain; and employee postings used to air personal grievances to wide public forums, the examples go on and on. ← 51 | 52 →

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