Social ethics and digital media

I went to the last event of the day on Friday, which was the panel on social ethics and digital media from an industry perspective. I found the talk to be very interesting and had a great range of speakers from a Google engineer to a chemistry teacher. I thought I would share some of the key ideas from the speakers that I enjoyed the best.

The first speaker Susan Etlinger who works with corporate communication and marketing. I found it interesting that many of the issues she brought up about data and ethics were ones we have already talked about in class. Etlinger brought up the issue of privacy with social media and how ownership of your online data is a growing concern. This can be seen with how difficult it is to delete things on Facebook. She also brought up the issue of transgenders use on Facebook having their alter identity like Professor Dougherty had mentioned in class. The main thing I took away from her talk about our ownership of data online is that we can have complexity and control or we can have simplicity and no control. For example, on Twitter users can either be public or private. This is a method of simplicity in controlling our data but then in return it gives users very limited control.

Question: Do you think people would still use social media sites if they were highly complex to function just so that the user had more control of their data? How important is it to users at the end of the day?

Brian Fitzpatrick who works as an engineer for Google and graduated from Loyola University Chicago was the next speaker. Fitzpatrick works for a transparency team for Google where they produce all the data and statistics that Google accumulates about their users use of the site. For example, Google will post the amount of traffic from different countries at different times, and researchers can use this tool to see that at different points there will be no traffic from Egypt of Syria randomly and can further analyze what this could imply. A funny story he told was that one day traffic to Google dropped by 50% and everyone found it extremely strange- it turns out that a woman had be found stealing cooper wire from the ground. This made me laugh because of our discussion in class about how often we forget that the internet is a physical thing and that our connection to it is also physical. Lastly a quote that stuck out to me about digital ethics that Fitzpatrick said was, “Corporations don’t have ethics, individuals do”.

Question: Why do we all use Google apposed to other search engines? Is it just because it has become the default?

John Thomas was the next speaker who works for Groupon. However, Thomas’ previous work as a journalist is where he gained most of his stories to tell on digital ethics. Thomas is the former editor in chief of Playboy’s online magazine for 10 years. Because of his position as an online editor he began to take an interest in the ethical standards of journalism online versus in print. One thing I found interesting to learn was that The New York Times has a corrections policy for when they get a story wrong online, however CNN does not have an online corrections policy along with many other news stations. I think sometimes people believe that since it is so easy to edit something online and fix a mistake that it has less of an impact than it would in print but I don’t think this is true. People believe what they read online if it is from a credible source just as much as they believe what they see in print, and the online source often reaches more people as well. Fixing online errors is also a tricky thing to do because most people might not go and check the article they already read to see if it has been updated for errors. The final thing he talked about was how the Chicago Tribune has a whole page online dedicated to posting mugshots with one constant ad playing on the side. The Tribune does not have to pay for these photos.

Question: Do you think the Tribune has this page just for the traffic that will lead to commercial benefits? Or do you think that posting daily mugshots that can be found for free is something that is just to benefit the general public?


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