Social Media Ethics : Think before you Post

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Leone Kraus compiled some video sites' terms and recommendations for careful posting. (Credit: Bilerico)

In light of last year’s suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, Leone Kraus blogged on LGBTQ blog Bilerico about ethics on social media sites like YouTube.

Clementi drowned in the Hudson River after his roommate activated a webcam in their room and “secretly streamed over the Internet his intimate encounter with another man,” the New York Times reported.

Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, reportedly tweeted to his followers that if they iChatted him at a certain time, they’d see Clementi with another man. Clementi wrote on Facebook that he was “jumping off the gw bridge sorry.” Ravi reportedly used Molly Wei’s computer to turn on the webcam. Ravi and Wei, both Rutgers students at the time, have been charged with invasion of privacy, according to the Associated Press.

Kraus commented that she “was shocked at the irresponsible and callous actions of Dharun Ravi and Molly Wei” and wondered if anyone criticized their actions at the time.  Kraus went on :

“As a culture, we have become so used to sharing anything and everything that it seems we’ve forgotten to draw boundaries around what is private, and what is decent. It seems that our technology has gotten ahead of us, and our culture has yet to catch up. Where people’s personal sense of decency fails, there is no agreed upon standard of etiquette or ethics to fall back upon.”

Kraus highlighted several streaming video websites and their recommended policies for posting on the site.

YouTube, for example, advises “keep your private stuff private” and not posting identifying information.  Also, YouTube recommends users set their uploads to private.  “Being mean hurts just as much online as off,” YouTube said in its video on careful YouTube use.

Skype features “etiquette” guidelines which include not to “harass, threaten, embarrass, or do anything else to another Skype user that is unwanted.”

Kraus criticized live video broadcasting service for not including any guidelines about not “harming others on the channel,” but the site did recommend being honest and careful.

Another video streaming service, UStream, requires users not to upload any thing “inappropriate,” “indecent, obscene, pornographic, defamatory, libelous, harassing, threatening, abusive, hateful, or violent,” “fraudulent, false, deceptive or misleading” information.

Kraus, however, questioned how many readers actually check out the guidelines and “whose responsibility it is” to advocate responsible use of social media outlets.  See Kraus’s full post here.

iMediaEthics adds Facebook’s terms, which call on its users to not “bully, intimidate, or harass” users, post any “hateful, threatening, or pornographic” content.   Facebook also features a section about “protecting other people’s rights,” but it mostly deals with respecting other people’s copyright rights.

Twitter’s terms don’t necessarily advise against posting content, but does nullify any responsibility of Twitter for such content, warning that “You may be exposed to Content that might be offensive, harmful, inaccurate or otherwise inappropriate, or in some cases, postings that have been mislabeled or are otherwise deceptive.”

Tumblr’s terms go a little farther, asking users not to post anything that breaches the privacy or copyright of others. It goes on to tell users not to publish anything “libelous, defamatory, abusive, threatening, harassing, hateful, offensive or otherwise violates any law or right of any third party.”

Video sharing site Vimeo’s“community standards and conduct policy” is fairly detailed and tells its users not to post content that is illegal, harassing, obscene, or libelous.  Terms for Apple’s iChat mirror that of Vimeo, with both saying that unacceptable content includes material that is

  • “harmful,
  • “threatening,
  • “abusive”
  • an invasion of privacy.
  • “hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable”
  • cruel to animals
  • misrepresentative and so forth.

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Social Media Ethics : Think before you Post

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