Do Users of Social Media Need a Code of Ethics?

I ask your help with a new Caux Round Table initiative – crafting a code of ethics for users of social media.

Providing platforms for social media is a very lucrative business. The market capitalization of Facebook (including Instagram) is $1 trillion, Twitter is $55 billion and Alphabet (Google) is $1.7 trillion.

Every business, presumably, is subject to ethical consideration in its business model, its products and services and their impacts on stakeholders.

Social media is now notorious for having negative social impacts. It facilitates 1) the undermining of trust; 2) giving scope to interpersonal enmity; 3) destroying reputations; 4) polarizing politics; 5) undermining in the public square reason and thoughtful analysis by giving scope to raw emotions, cognitive biases and disorderly ignorance; 6) putting obstacles in the way of free speaking and thinking; 7) promoting low self-esteem in girls and young women; and 8) disseminating disinformation and “fake news” – to mention only a few of the dysfunctions aggravated by social media.

Are the business platforms responsible for these negative impacts or is it those who use social media wrongfully and unethically, thoughtlessly and cruelly, who should be more respectful of others?

Use of social media is a power in our hands, which can be weaponized or used thoughtfully and carefully. All uses of power by our kind raise ethical concerns over abuse and fairness.

There are no standards published and recommended for the responsible use of social media by consumers of this product. Therefore, the Caux Round Table has asked its fellows for advice and guidance in shaping such a code of ethics for users of social media.

I attach here for your review the current draft of such an ethical code.

Please send me at your earliest convenience your advice and suggestions for improving the current draft statement.