Topic 4 – Reflection

During this topic, I made a conscious effort to link my ideas to current affairs relating to business and social media, to make my arguments more engaging and relevant. It came as no surprise that business use of social media raised serious ethical issues. What was surprising was the varied ways in which ‘business use of social media’ had been interpreted by students. I chose to focus on high-profile individuals (specifically politicians but celebrities were also discussed in the comments) whose professions place them in the public eye online. Emily studied the social media platforms as businesses with policies and complicating pressures of their own, while Jordan looked at use of social media by individuals within a business and how this reflects on a company.

While these different approaches covered separate ethical concerns, a common issue raised on blogs was who is responsible for prescribing and maintaining ethical conduct on social media platforms: businesses, individuals, society, government bodies or the platforms themselves? This inspired me to think not just about the existing problems but about steps which can be taken towards solving them.

So, taking trolling on Twitter from my own blog as an example, I have gathered some of the suggestions and learnings which came through in the comments to see what can be done to help. I received several comments on my Topic 4 post, creating a rich and wide-ranging discussion (key points captured in the graphic below).

Trolling infographic
Fig. 1: visual representation of the discussion generated from my Topic 4 post

As Jordan pointed out in his comment, there are ‘few other tools’ like Twitter where opinions can be shared so freely. While I realise that this a huge part of the appeal of the platform, can the pleasure that we get from Twitter ever make up for when it goes wrong? Hopefully the wider recognition and improved understanding of trolling is leading towards less damaging online dialogue in future.

Comment on Emily’s blog here.

Comment on Jordan’s blog here.

Word count: 319

Image References

Featured Image: courtesy of Pexels.

Figure 1: self-produced using Microsoft PowerPoint.


Bitter Twitter: when free speech goes wrong

In June last year a woman was brutally killed in Birstall, West Yorkshire. Jo Cox was a respected MP and mother of two children. Her murderer, Thomas Mair, was only interested in her political voice, communicated through her professional Twitter account, which he viewed two days prior to the killing (Cobain, 2016). Jo, like most MPs, freely expressed her political opinions online; Mair was reacting against her support for the Remain campaign during the EU referendum.

Fig 1: The politics of Twitter

This recent tragedy has brought issues of personal safety in connection to social media to the fore. In the wake of Jo Cox’s murder, the founder of hate-crime monitoring group Tell MAMA told MPs that Twitter is failing to tackle far-right extremists.

“There’s a real risk after the murder of Jo Cox to individuals in our country that organisations and corporations like Twitter simply disregard … and it cannot continue” (Mughal, 2016).

However, Twitter does have a hateful conduct policy and an abuse-reporting page (Grierson, 2016). A Guardian article (2014) applies the saying ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ in defence of Twitter, arguing that the platform is ‘only the messenger for the society in which it operates. It is not responsible for … the social misfits who use it. We are.’ Perhaps the issue lies in the fact that social networking platforms can expose the gross prejudices still at work in modern society; not a comfortable realisation.

Just a few months after the tragedy, a man was arrested for tweeting “someone jo cox Anna sourby please” (The Guardian, 2016). Under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 it is an offence to send messages that are ‘grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character’. Anna Soubry, the Conservative MP for Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire was, like Cox, a Remain supporter. She responded to the message on social media, calling the Twitter user a “sad cowardly troll”. Trolling is new internet slang term for a person who posts provocative and potentially hurtful messages in an online community.

new-piktochart_172_f25edc1360667224b859c31543eebce5864a32d3 (3)
Fig 2: Trolling infographic

Twitter is a wonderful medium for freedom of speech. Unfortunately there is also the potential for it to be a conduit for terrible things. We have to realise that social media infers a societal responsibility on us all.

Word count: 383


Castella, T & Brown, V (2011). Trolling: Who does it and why? BBC News.

Cobain, I (2016). Jo Cox killed in ‘brutal, cowardly’ and politically motivated murder, trial hears. The Guardian

Communications Act (2003).

Gammon, J (2014). Over a quarter of Americans have made malicious online comments. YouGov.

Greenwald, G (2014). Why privacy matters. TED Talk.

Grierson, J (2016). Twitter fails to deal with far-right abuse, anti-hate group tells MPs. The Guardian.

Ronson, J (2015). How one stupid tweet blew up Justine Sacco’s life. The New York Times Magazine.

The Guardian (2014). Twitter abuse: easy on the messenger.

The Guardian (2016). Man arrested over tweet urging someone to ‘Jo Cox’ MP Anna Soubry.

The Telegraph (2015). Five internet trolls a day convicted in UK shows ten-fold increase. Ministry of Justice Figures.

Figure references

Figure 1: Self-produced using Microsoft PowerPoint.

Figure 2: Self-produced using Piktochart using statistics from YouGov and the Ministry of Justice.