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Title: Ethics and social networking sites: A disclosive analysis of Facebook
Authors: Light, B
McGrath, K
Keywords: Social networking;Social media;Disclosive ethics;Morality of technology;Design;Consequences
Issue Date: 2010
Abstract: Purpose: This paper provides insights into the moral values embodied by a popular social networking site (SNS), Facebook. We adopt the position that technology as well as humans has a moral character in order to disclose ethical concerns that are not transparent to users of the site. Design/methodology/approach: This study is based upon qualitative field work, involving participant observation, conducted over a two year period. Findings: Much research on the ethics of information systems has focused on the way that people deploy particular technologies, and the consequences arising, with a view to making policy recommendations and ethical interventions. By focusing on technology as a moral actor with reach across and beyond the Internet, we reveal the complex and diffuse nature of ethical responsibility in our case and the consequent implications for governance of SNS. Research limitations/implications: We situate our research in a body of work known as disclosive ethics and argue for an ongoing process of evaluating SNS to reveal their moral importance. Along with other authors in the genre, our work is largely descriptive, but we engage with prior research by Brey and Introna to highlight the scope for theory development. Practical implications: Governance measures that require the developers of social networking sites to revise their designs fail to address the diffuse nature of ethical responsibility in this case. Such technologies need to be opened up to scrutiny on a regular basis to increase public awareness of the issues and thereby disclose concerns to a wider audience. We suggest that there is value in studying the development and use of these technologies in their infancy, or if established, in the experiences of novice users. Furthermore, flash points in technological trajectories can prove useful sites of investigation. Originality/value: Existing research on social networking sites either fails to address ethical concerns head on or adopts a tool view of the technologies so that the focus is on the ethical behaviour of users. We focus upon the agency, and hence the moral character, of technology to show both the possibilities for, and limitations of, ethical interventions in such cases.
Description: Paper has been accepted for publication in Information, Technology and People.
ISSN: 0959-3845
Appears in Collections:Computer Science
Dept of Computer Science Research Papers

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