Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Social Media and Government Ethics: Issues and Challenges

Miriam Schulman, assistant director of The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, discusses the impact of social media on government ethics with David Vossbrink, director of communications for the city of San Jose. "Social media magnifies the consequences of a mistake," comments Vossbrink, but the elements of making ethical distinctions remains the same." The ethical positives include audience greater reach and engagement on the issues through the use of social medial. The ethical benefits certainly outweigh the ethical "traps," but the burden is on us as government officials to be mindful of consequences. As public sector employers, Vossbrink comments, we are mindful of employees rights to express themselves, but the question has to be asked: at what point could personal opinion create a public image conflict? To a large degree it depends on the nature of the staff position and their degree of involvement in public policy and decision-making.