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Staying ethical in a digital age
June 10, 2019

wooden gavel on a wooden surface | Photo by Wesley Tingey on UnsplashThe advent of the digital age has brought new challenges in the realm of personal and professional ethics. News outlets and digital media continue to become increasingly accessible, and an increase in participation has weakened many outlets’ ability to regulate the accurate spread of information to the public. So when participating in the spread of information, one must maintain the highest commitment to accuracy and honesty in that information.

The spread of misinformation has significant impacts on one’s personal and professional brand. Family members, friends, and other members of your social network often depend on social and digital media to gather daily news rather than obtaining it directly from a curated news source. This is a powerful privilege, as communities are able to curate the news important to them. Since the news comes directly from trusted network members, many fail to go through a rigorous information vetting process, given that the news was received from a trusted source. If social media community members fail to uphold an ethical commitment to the truth, the impact can eventually lead to harmfully misinformed communities.

In a professional sense, ethical commitment to truthfully and accurately spreading news is important to protecting one’s brand. Businesses rely on positive customer experiences and subsequent referrals and recommendations to attract new business. Spreading misinformation via a business’s professional social and digital media presence can damage the public’s perception of a business’s integrity and competency.  

What steps can someone take to protect their family, networks, and professional interests?

  1. Check the source of your media content. By completing a cursory check for the original source of information you gather before sharing, you significantly reduce the likelihood of misinforming your communities or harming your brand by spreading fake news.
  2. Understand biases and omissions. While some misleading news content may not be “false” or dishonest, some content does present bias that can provide skewed or harmful content.
  3. Navigate permanency. Much of the challenge of the digital age lies in the fact that digital media are now virtually permanent. If you do happen to err in sharing content that is misleading or untruthful, be forward in communicating your error with apology and committing to a more ethically centered process for distributing media amongst communities.

Kameron Dunbar is an Oberlin Research Group analyst from Detroit, MI specializing in political communications.

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