Ethics of Data Mining

Assignment: Read this article about the ‘ethical’ social network Ello which promises not to data mine. What do you think could be the wider consequences to social networks of Ello’s stance? Do you think social media users will respond positively? How would you predict Ello’s future?


According to the assigned article, Ello offers an “‘ethical’ ad-free social experience.” While the platform may claim to be “ad-free,” that doesn’t necessarily mean the platform operates ethically or provides an “ethical experience.” Additionally, a platform that is not ad-free doesn’t necessarily provide an unethical experience. The terms are mutually exclusive, and simply because the platform does not allow advertising, does not mean it is superior or more ethical than other social platform. In fact, many platforms don’t necessarily foster unethical experiences, but rather the users act and generate content that is less than ethical.

With the frequent use of the terms “ethics” and “ethical” in this post, it’s important to keep in mind that what constitutes ethical behavior and how some may define ethics differs among individuals. Additionally, the term ad and/or advertisement may also seem like words with concrete definitions; however, the article claims that Ello, as a Public Benefit Corporation, “won’t make money from selling ads.” Does this mean pro-bono ads are fair game, what about ads promoting their cause and motives for what they deem to be an “ethical experience?” Would in-kind donations in exchange for ad space fall within or outside of this statement? You see, even when we think we are rather clear with our terminology and motives, there almost always remains some level of ambiguity.

As powerful as the manifesto for Ello is (as shown below), and I truly admire that they agree not to sell their users information to companies, it’s difficult to fathom that Ello will (1) gain enough traction by limiting those allowed to use it or (2) make enough money to continue to operate solely off the sale of widgets and plugins. Although individuals are less than thrilled about the idea that their information is being sold to marketers, for which there should likely be more strict regulations, our society has become accustomed to being marketed to.

Ello's Manifesto

Ello’s Manifesto

Whether it be television or a live sporting event, almost any form of entertainment provides opportunity for marketers. Why? Simply because it’s where the people, their audience, is located. While I personally don’t agree with data being sold, I do think it is fair game for platforms to utilize the information themselves, which may include strategically placing ads for companies for a particular demographic. That’s not to say I believe companies should be able to buy a list of individuals and their personal information to do whatever they please with, but rather they are paying for the ability to market to individuals that fit a certain demographic (without owning the information). We’ve allowed this practice for other platforms such as television advertisers that only want to market to people in a particular area watching certain types of shows.

I’m also in support of such information being used to improve service and/or be utilized for proactive reasons, including but not limited to safety. Essentially, I believe Ello limits itself substantially (and financially) by claiming they will not (EVER) participate in advertisements! Instead, I believe it could be more beneficial for Ello to promise not to sell personal information.

Without advertisers and with limited exposure, I predict a bleak future for Ello, and a slow death, similar to MySpace. (Which, by the way, does MySpace even exist anymore?) Oh, that’s right, we’ve forgotten about platforms that don’t have audience members, particularly when there are mammoth size companies to compete with and more than enough social networks to keep up with as is.

Need proof that Ello hasn’t gained traction, just look how unpopular the assigned article about the platform is:

Ello article - Social SHare

(Note: See social sharing stats/numbers above the article.)

While I don’t think Ello’s stance will force the hand of social media moguls such as Facebook to do away with advertising, I do think it may force social platforms to be more accountable for securing information and disclosing what they do with it. Initially, pending Ello even gets enough exposure, I believe some individuals will jump on the bandwagon and advocate for platforms of this nature; however, eventually they (the users) will want to participate on a platform that they can connect with others and to to do so will ultimately be forced to resort back to the platforms they once denounced.

Although I pride Ello for their efforts, I believe they could have utilized the multi-millions of dollars they have funded to raise greater awareness about how social media platforms are using our information to create an initiative for more strict regulations. Hell, a couple million dollars in promoted Tweets and Boosted Facebook posts could probably create quite a stir, in particular when using the platforms themselves for purposes of exposure (oh, the irony). Of course this would be going against their mission, but would it be worth while to prove just that point. How powerful would it be to state the advertising criteria you used on the ad itself and say that is why you are being targeted, because social platforms have allowed me access to your information for marketing purposes.

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Moderation Assignment

Assignment: How would you moderate the following audience/customer comments if left on your organization’s Facebook page?


To a hotel: “I am disgusted about the state of your restaurant on 1467 Justin Kings Way. Empty tables weren’t cleared and full of remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

Dear ____,

I am shocked and embarrassed to hear about the condition you found the restaurant in. I can assure you that this is not typically and would greatly appreciate a brief amount of your time to discuss this matter in more details. Please email me at manager@1467justinkingsway.com or you may call me at 000-000-0000. If I can get more information regarding the time and date during which you found the restaurant in the condition you mentioned, it will aid us in getting to the bottom of the matter and properly handling the situation.

I can assure you that our restaurant kitchen is clean and has received zero infractions by any restaurant management service. As a dining facility, we are held to strict requirements and have never been penalized for being below the standard. I would so appreciate the opportunity to prove to you that how you witnessed our restaurant is not characteristic of the norm. I would like to personally invite you to our restaurant to experience our exceptional dining environment for yourself. I also would love the opportunity to apologize in person and meet you first hand. If you would like to contact me with a preferred day and time to dine with us, I will schedule your reservation and make sure that I am personally on staff to ensure all your needs are met.

My sincerest apologies,

<Name>


To a mainstream news network: “Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.” (Let us assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides.)

Assuming the reporting was truly balanced , it is clear that this individual was unable to see past their self-created blinders and has reached a level of anger that may not be capable of talking down. Although news networks are often criticized for their biases, as individuals we also have biases and often form them unknowingly. Even when we are aware of our biases, it is difficult to absorb information in a neutral manner.

For instance, you may write an apology letter to another individual and in it you equally share your role in the situation as well as theirs. When reading a letter of this nature with pre-determined biases of our own, it’s easy to remember the criticisms rather than the mentions of the individual apologizing and also taking responsibility for the situation. In situations such as these, it’s possible the person may never see the other side, or it will likely take a sit down conversation (which doesn’t seem like an option for the disgruntled individual blasting the mainstream news network). For this reason, I am unsure if I would advise replying, as the individual may not be able to see the other side and it is clear they are already quite perturbed, and it’s not unlikely that they will simply fire back with “colorful” language.

This may be an issues worth consulting with your co-workers or team about. If the consensus of the staff of the mainstream news channel involved in making these types of decisions was to reply, I would consider including a clip of the report she is referring to and timestamps where each party’s position is addressed to show that equal time was given to each cause, this way he/she can reference back to the clip. I would also express your deep interest, concern and respect for the matter as well (after all, that’s why you’re reporting on it), and determine amongst your team if an apology for how she felt the information was portrayed is necessary, or if it admits fault (for which we are told there was none).

DiGiorno’s Uh-Oh

Assignment: Find an example of how a company or an individual has had their reputation put at risk by social media activity. This should NOT be an example covered in the video lecture or readings. Explore how the company or individual responded and discuss what action you would have taken.

THE BACKGROUND

In September of 2014, NFL player Ray Rice was facing public scrutiny for abusing his wife Janay. For those of you that didn’t see the incident on the news, YouTube or SportsCenter, Ray hit his wife knocking her out cold in an elevator, which he later dragged her out of. I’m not getting into the politics of what she may have said or done prior, their relationship history, or anything of that nature – the assault was shocking and definitely not a laughing matter.

To raise awareness about domestic violence and the seriousness of the matter surrounding the Rice’s, a Twitter hashtag, actually hashtags, were created. Many women, including celebrities, opened up about their personal experiences of being victimized by a significant other. Women shared their reasonings for both staying in the relationship (#whyistayed) and/or leaving (#whyileft).

THE UH-OH

DiGiorno pizza is apparently known for making snarky, satirical comments on Twitter, and frequently utilizes hashtags, especially those that are trending. However, DiGiorno’s cold, comedic heart got burned when they didn’t do their homework and insensitively misused the hashtag #whyistayed.  

DiGiorno eagerly used the trending hashtag without doing the miniscule amount of research necessary to determine the actual message behind the #. In their consistently satirical tone they tweeted the following:

Digiorno #Whyistayed

Ready, set…BACK PEDAL. Almost instantaneously DiGiorno realized the PR nightmare they had created removed the Tweet and replaced it with an apology.

DiGiorno - #Whyistayed response

But they didn’t stop there, and nor should they have. DiGiorno responded and apologized to individual Twitter users’ tweets as well, and while the apologies got somewhat monotonous and lost their genuity (in my opinion), they didn’t stop apologizing….how could they?

Digiorno #whyistayed replies to individuals

As stated in this Washington Post article, “brands are people too – and sometimes people make idiots of themselves.” The article also appropriately groups DiGiorno with some other idiot brands, guilt of making some social media mistakes. But hey, we’re human..right? Apologies can go a long way in relationships, in particular face-to-face; however, I don’t know that they hold the same value in 140 characters or less, particularly from a corporate brand with deep pockets. Money talks.

DiGiorno may not have done their research before tweeting, but it’s possible they learned from other social media mistakes such as the Red Cross and Dogfish Head  #gettngslizzered incident. Red Cross was fortunate to have Dogfish Head step in as an ally, but DiGiorno was responsible for their own damage control and wiping the pizza of their embarrassed faces. DiGiorno’s efforts to repair the damage have been honorable and were in fact rather timely, given October (the following month) was domestic violence awareness month.

To successfully recover, DiGiorno had to put their money where their mouth was and turn apologies into dollar signs.