Social-media (or social-network) can be defined as an online material for grouping people to share interests & knowledge, communication and exploring others’ interests & activities. It consists of a representation of each user (user profile), social links, shared information, images, videos and many more.

Typically in high-schools, workplaces and colleges, the internet is filled with individuals who are having the motive on building relationships or friendships with other internet users.

What Is Social Networking 2011

Social Networking websites allow users to share personal information with others, chat with friends, upload or download images & videos and etc. Some of the most widely used social networking websites are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Google+, DeviantArt and Orkut.

Most of the online dealers, businesses or communities use social networking websites to share their common alliances or do businesses. They share, hobbies, religious views, political aspects, ideas and emerging business trends. Once we start using a social networking website with the intention of socializing, thereby we get habited of walkthrough profiles of others. Social is built upon the nodes which are connected by independent and friendly relationship such as business perspectives, kinship, relationships on faith or sexual correlation and knowledge sharing.

A community group will have access to vast information about the particulars within the group. When each group on the social network interconnects with other groups, will gain the ability of expanding the relationship among a wide range of users. By connecting to a group, a user will get many benefits like communicating with people who have similar interests, gain knowledge, learn people’s attitudes and etc. Also a personal group can post ideas, communicate or send messages to the members where it will be visible only to the members of the group.

Before the advent of social media, mostly business or individual communications were made through Arpanet, Listserv, Bulletin board and Usenet that were mediated by internet and computers. America Online (AOL), Prodigy and CompuServe who are leading Internet Service Providers, were contributed in providing online services to escalate tripod functionalities of social networking websites (Internet Society 2012). With the establishment of Globe com (1995) in social network community groups, it began the form of generalizing. These early online communities allowed people to interact with each other via chatting, sharing personal details or ideas by providing an easy and user friendly tools and web space.

In early 90s of social networking evolution, it enabled listing and searching friends online. At the late 90s newer social networking components were developed for searching or managing friends, wall posting, chat rooms and etc. The newer generation of social media has flourished Sixdegree.com that was launched in 1997 and became the first officially launched social networking website. Sixdegrees.com allowed listing friends and family, sending messages and posting on bulletin boards. Some community websites like Classmates.com is designed with the purpose of connecting students together from various regions in the world. Today social networking websites were developed to attract users with different status, races, religions, educational backgrounds, professional backgrounds and more. 

Bebo is another social media joined the network in way back 2005.

User view rates of MySpace have grown than the Google.com.

Since its establishment, Facebook has become a sustained social networking website with a huge user community among the other social websites.

Throughout my research & investigations I have intended to identify and discuss about social, professional, ethical and legal issues of using social networking websites. I will be focusing on various age groups, nations, cultures and religious perspectives to discuss about the dilemmas of socialising through online platforms.

Ethical Dilemmas

Social networking will differ from the traditional social scientific studies, which illustrates the attributes, attitudes, interests, abilities of each user. Even social media have rapidly evolved among individuals and businesses where it has to face many questions about the ethical conflicts. A typical concern arises by using social networking websites would be the privacy of the actors. The contents added to a website will remain on the cyberspace in some form forever. Even the user deletes content from his/her profile, it will virtually remain somewhere forever and can be recalled or restored whenever required (Shivendra, V. 2011).

When concerning the ethical dilemmas, the social networking websites encourages emotional posts instead of conciliatory reflection. Instead of direct communication with people, it encourages a broadcast mechanism to an expansive audience. Social media also create a potential of indelible posts rather than ethereal communication. Due to social networking, people will completely loose physical contact with others by having an addiction to virtual communication. Another ethical concern would be on the confidentiality of users’ data. Most personal information such as, personal details, contact information, interests, activities, rich media contents added by the user on social-media is having a risk and vulnerability of distortion.

From the research findings, it demonstrates that approximately 88% (9 in 10) of the teenagers are actively uses social networking websites. Nearly 70% of them merely found online at least 1 hour per day. More than 50% from above users are considering their capabilities on accessing social-media at work place (Amanda L., Kristen P., Aaron S., Kathryn Z. 2010). This has lead to implement professional codes and policies to limit the access to social networking websites and other irrelevant websites at work environment during work hours. This is to protect company’s intellectual properties from theft, prevent spreading rumours about other employees & management and to prevent leakage of confidential data. Another reason which let companies to prohibit the usage of social-media during the working hours is to save internet bandwidth.

Through the decades social networking has become a fundamental source of criminal activities. Wall posts, images, videos added by the user on social networking websites have obtained by the stalkers and criminals for their felonious activities. Social media has given a rapid movement for offline crimes and offences.

Shivendra, V. 2011

Today social media has become a major source of discovering and experimenting criminal activities. User profiles have being used to track the location of the victim by the perpetrator and chat rooms were exposed to mesmerise or brainwash the victim to perform any unethical affairs. When considering the ethical terms and facts, it is important that every social media website owners must make sure to sustain Privacy, Confidentiality and Security of users. These three are the core principles of Information Systems Ethics.

Legal Obligations

When considering violating employment laws by using social-media sites at work, most workers having addicted on accessing social networking sites during work hours. They stick with social media for long hours and neglect performing official tasks. Due to this the organisations have to face severe drawbacks on the productivity and performance of the business. Also some employers are creating decoy profiles & community groups and add their workers in them to obtain information about the activities being performed. This can create conflicts on ethical factors by misusing the privacy of the employees and violating the law by tricking them. Facebook.com specifically mentions in their terms and conditions that every registered user must have the responsibility on their own personal profiles and must not misuse others’ who are in the community. 

Apart from the office environment, use of social-media also create legal issues on the privacy and confidentiality of personal data of general users. Especially for students and teenagers who are having high potential on becoming addictive for unlawful dilemmas. Risk and vulnerabilities on the privacy is higher in social networking. Most of the online users don’t concern about privacy rights & laws while using internet. They actually don’t have knowledge on handling confidential information posted by them to the social networking websites (David, N. 2011). Due to this, mobsters are easily breach privacy boundaries and perform illegal activities as they wish.

Mostly the users don’t have any knowledge that their personal information has been sold through the social-media. Even Facebook.com has signified in their policy statements that they will be giving personal information of the users to the third party who they trust without the consent of individuals. In regard to this, most businesses and advertising firms proceed with acquiring personal data of users without a transparency. Social network users weren’t acknowledged about how their profile information is being utilized by the third party entities.

Some people use to post or share contents that could be owned by someone else. There are contents being shared without the consent of the original author. These contents could be any form of quotes, texts, images, videos and etc. When publishing a copyrighted content on a social networking website, the user will have to face legal offences. Most online users don’t know whether the contents posted by them are copyright protected or not.

Most people are having a habit of copying contents from websites and pasting it on wall, which may lead to plagiarism which is having high legal conditions. It defines as stealing of someone else’s creativity or imaginations.

Kathrin, L. 2010

Copyright infringement is a major factor where every social media users should concern about when they post others’ contents. Simply copying and pasting the materials of others will create a conflict on privacy rights of the first distribution (Copyright Law 2011). Using a third party subject without a reference or acknowledgement will be a cause for minus permit, which can negatively affect both the vicious and civil faith, including exemplary damages and condemns under U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 101, et.seq. The defendants may attempt to impose their rights at any cost. 

Many social-media websites use various methods to prevent contents from piracy and modifications to make sure the original inclusions remain stable. Getty Pictures Inc is a leading Optical Content Management Company established a partnership in 2007 with Pac Scout which is another famous business organization for manipulating picture recognition technologies and quibble crawling to identify unauthorized utilization of Getty images. Getty proceeds with charging legal compensations under US Right of first publication Act from who contravene the law by pirating Getty images and publishing on websites.

Professional Issues

Most of the companies, universities and professional bodies have prohibited the usage of social networking websites within the premise to prevent from spreading rumors and protect confidential information from leakage. Even some countries, by the government itself have restricted access to social networking sites for security reasons (e.g. China has banned Facebook within the country).

Many social media websites address copyright contents through their policy statements and terms of use.

The users are having a sole responsibility on any data, text, screen names, images, graphical contents, profiles, audios and videos posted by them. 

Twitter

We can find many real world examples on infringement of professional embodies. A nurse has been suspended due to publishing her half-naked picture at work using a social-media platform. Similar to above incident, we can find thousands of incidents where the workers have violated discipline of the workplace due to the use of social media websites (British Journal of Midwifery 2010).

Social Concerns

Today’s social-media websites follow unique ways of informing the user about infringing of online materials. For example, Facebook.com has specifically defined in the β€œFacebook Copyright Policy” statement in addition to its Terms of Use, about the directions and methodologies on how to report a copyright related incident and point-out that Facebook authority will take appropriate actions on such cases immediately. This includes tracking the pirated contents from the particular individual’s personal profile.

Social-media provides instant and effective tools to communicate with your colleagues, families and friends. Some social networks encourage the computer programmers to develop tools and plug-ins to support and enhance their websites. Some of these tools can consist of hidden algorithms that would’ve developed with the intention of spoofing or acquiring user data. Revealing sensitive data through these tools and plug-ins may lead to dreadful outcomes. As a real world example we could consider Peter’s case. A β€˜tweet’ from Peter Hoekstra a congressman having said that he visited Iraq in February 2009. He made a tweet saying β€˜Just landed in Baghdad’. This has exposed the journey of the congressman where it supposed to be top-secret. Also he was on a visit which is having a top priority on the political rehabilitation of Iraq. This incident has become controversial in several nations (Jason 2009).

Some social networks like Twitter.com doesn’t claim any property rights over the materials supplied by the users and furthermore users can remove or disable their personal accounts by a single click and every texts, images and other contents related to the particular profile will be removed simultaneously.

Today we can find posts on social media that are insulting individuals, communities, cultures, religions and political parties. It can become a root cause for tort liability such as deception, upbraiding and threatening.

Cyber bullying was highlighted as another root cause for many criminal offenses.

Facebook has encountered with such an incident where a teenage has complained about an online community that was created to ridicule and insult her. Finally when investigating the case, they’ve found that this group was created by four of her former schoolmates.

Tort obligation can be mitigated by having firm policies and professional codes on social networking websites as well as within organisations that use social media for business purpose. These policy statements must include review of media contents before publishing on the internet & then create conflicts in social obligations.

There are many other social issues arise because of the social-media. Another case involves Lori Drew who’s a Missouri lady pretended as a young boy through a MySpace account to create affair of a conversance on a teenage girl. The girl killed herself when the ruse of the MySpace account was figured out by her. Ms. Drew was judged for misusing the computer & internet and offended for violating the rules of computer misuse act. Eventually, she was offended for computer fraud and charged with 13 years of imprisonment and a penalty pay. This case has occurred in November 2008 (Jennifer, S. 2008).

In 14th of January 2009 another similar case was reported. A British man has killed his wife because her Facebook status was β€œsingle”. Lately he was convicted for a prison life for 18 years because of this.

Every individuals and organisations must take appropriate actions to prevent online and offline criminal activities that would cause by the social-media. Every social-media platform owners must take the responsibility on investigating such criminal activities performed by their users.

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