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Debate: Myspace is your space

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This is one of the three topics that can be used to enter the Princeton Review The Great Debaters online debate contest.

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Resolved: It is ethical for colleges, parents, or employers to get information about people from social networking websites

Contents

Background and Context of Debate:


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Motions: What are the general propositions of these opposing sides?

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Yes

  • This house believes that it is legal for employers, college administrators, and parents to search for information on users.
  • This house believes that it is ethical for these groups to search for relevant information.
  • This house believes that these groups have and ethical, relevant interest in trolling for information.



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No

  • This house believes it is harmful when private information is so publicly accessible and that some regulations should be set and public access.
  • This house believes social networks contain mostly private, social information that is irrelevant to the kinds of credentials-based information college entrance administrators, educators, and employers should be looking at.
  • This house believes parents would be better leaving MySpace as "my space" for their children.




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General access: Is the general level of access unethical or bad?

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Yes

  • Members of social networking sites have significant powers to limit outsider access: There are many privacy settings on Facebook, for example. You can make it impossible for anyone to view your profile via legitimate avenues on Facebook without being inside you network of friends. Unless employers are hacking into profiles, this is sufficient to prevent employers from accessing profiles. As such, the user has the power to close their account from employer view. It is up to the user. This is important, since many prospective employees will want employers to view their profiles.
  • Public viewage has a positive moderating effect on individual contact on and off-line. Confucius noted that he was lucky to be such a public figure, as it put his behavior in check. The same applies to other individuals, so the greater the access from parents, educators, and employers the better. It is good that individuals are less inclined now to post, for example, vulgar or extremist comments.
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No

  • Privacy is a very important element of the social contract, and helps foster individuality and free expression, but is undermined by the extent of access of these groups. Danah Boyd, social networking scholar and blogger, said in 2006 - "privacy is an experience that people have, not a state of data....When people feel exposed or invaded, there's a privacy issue."[1] Part of the reaction from this exposure, as is noted in the pro case, is a moderation of behavior. But, this could also be called a "dulling" effect where all of the brightness of character differentiating individuals becomes less and less distinct in favor of a common understanding of what is generally acceptable among the general public. This process of public exposure leading to the dulling and averaging of individuals is precisely what Aldous Huxley in A Brave New World and George Orwell in 1984 feared. Privacy helps protect individuality by ensuring that individuals can express themselves freely, how they want, and among a private or limited audience. This is the general logic behind freedom of privacy laws. Therefore, it is important to set limits on parent, employer, and educator access and invasiveness on social networking sites.




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Employers: Should employers check social networking profiles of candidates?

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Yes

  • Social networking sites provide employers a true impression of a candidate. It is important that employers have good information on candidates so that they can judge most accurately whether a candidate is qualified. It is also important, given the problem of false resumes, for employers to have access to alternative sources of information for cross-referencing. But, equally important and relevant information regards the character of an individual, which social networking sites can help reveal. All of this information helps employers make better decisions and hire more effectively or "accurately".
  • Facebook can be used very effectively by candidates to showcase themselves to employers: Facebook profiles should be seen as a tool for job-seekers looking to expose their social-side and character to employers. Candidates can create good representations of their character on their profiles, and benefit from employer exposure to this information.
  • Companies have Facebook profiles that benefit job-seekers, making the trade-off acceptable for employers to seek information about candidates on these sites.
    • YouTube: "How Facebook Can Help In Your Career Search". Posted November 26, 2007.
  • Social networks forbid employers from spamming, but not from collecting information.


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No

  • Employer access to social networking sites can be financially damaging to candidates.
    • Tim DeMello, owner of the Internet company Ziggs said to CBS news in June 2006 - "I think some of these sites out there are going to be the most expensive free Web sites to their careers that they've ever seen."
  • Facebook policy demands a non-commercial use that should prevent employers from using the site for commercial purposes:
  • Facebook is not a true representation of a candidate, so employers shouldn't base their decisions off of it.
  • Many Facebook users do not know that employers are watching. If Facebook users were aware that employers were watching, they might have chosen to keep private their profile.
  • YouTube. November 6th, 2007. "Facebook Killed the Private Life"


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Parents: Should parents be checking their child's profile?

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Yes

  • Parents should try to engage with children on social networking sites. Youth spend a significant amount of time online these days. Barring the possibility that children will shift away from social networking sties, it is important that parents attempt to make a connection with their children on these sites. It is not necessary to think that parents will be snooping on their children on social networking site. There is legitimate room for bonding to take place, and it should be encouraged.
  • Parents should monitor their children's profiles to check against "cyber-bullies". Cyber bullies are individuals that bully and harass other individuals online. In a shocking case in 2007, a 13 year-old girl committed suicide after being bullied by neighbors on MySpace. If suicide is a possible result of cyber-bullying, parents should be actively engaged in monitoring profiles to protect their children against these activities.[2]
  • Encouraging proper cyber behavior is part of a modern education. This applies to teachers and parents. The only way to instruct proper cyber behavior, though, is to see what people and children are actually posting, in this context, on their personal profiles and with other users.




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No

  • Trying to regulate children will actually make them more rebellious: As famous early 20th century psychiatrist Carl Jung said, "what you resist persists". The more parents try to constrain and direct children on social networking sites, the more they will seek to rebel and act outlandishly. By trying to bring attention to what is bad on social networking sties and in personal profiles, parents will actually bring greater attention to these things, and make children more conscious of the opportunity to take "nefarious" steps. This might have the reverse effect from what is intended by parents.


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Colleges/applicants: Should colleges search applicant profiles on social networking sites?

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Yes

  • Social network profiles are highly relevant to an applicant's merit for admissions: Admissions is all about judging the overall merit of a candidate. This is, more and more, a judgment of the life and character of a candidate, which is often outlined in stunning detail on social networking profiles (interests, activism, social-interactions...). Therefore, Facebook, Myspace, and other social networking profiles of candidates are highly relevant to an admissions officer, and justifies their approaching this information to make their judgement on the candidate.
  • Access to more information about candidates makes judgements more accurate and thus more fair overall. Giving the sensitivity to the admissions process in regard to fairness, this is very important.
  • Admish.com is a social networking site for college students and admissions officers. It inherently facilities interactions between students and college admissions officers, and with the express approval of both. It demonstrates that there is a value in social networking for applicant-college interactions, instead of it being something that should be feared as the proposition seems to suggest.


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No

  • Admissions officers that search profiles put those without access at a disadvantage. Imagining that colleges do search on social networking sites to find candidates, it should be understood that only the applicants which have become a member of such sites would be seen and gain advantage. But, what about those who don't become a member in any of the social networking sites available on the web? The problem is that there are poor students out there who are really smart and deserve university admission, but, pity for them, they do not have enough resources to get a computer and establish a personal profile on a social networking site. Therefore, a system in which colleges search for applicants will only promote an unfair admission of students.
  • Admissions officers should not "snoop" around on profiles that are mostly irrelevant to the application process: It is unethical to snoop around on a personal profile of a candidate for information pertaining to an individual and their merit for entry into a University. This information is not necessarily relevant to the process at hand. Only relevant information should be viewed by admission's officers
  • Consent should be required from an applicant for an admissions officer to check out a profile: Consent is a significant element of the admissions process. A contract of sorts is entered between the candidate and college in which relevant information is supplied by the candidate. Relevant information can be checked through official third-party sources such as the SATs and high schools. This remains consensual because the applicant entered into a disclosure agreement with their high school and the preparers of the SATs, which gives authority to admissions officers to view relevant information about the applicant. But no such contract is established if an admissions officer "snoops" onto a profile. It thus breaks the mold of consent and acceptability in the admissions process.



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University administrators: Should univ. admins. be checking profiles for misbehavior?

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Yes

  • Universities have the right to look at profiles that are based on university emails: Facbook was initially a university-based system that required that profiles be based on valid university email addresses. These email addresses are, in part, owned by the university. Because universities have some authority over these emails they also have some juridiction on the social-networking profiles that use these email addresses.
    • Kathryn Goldman, director of judicial affairs at the University of Delaware, said that the university administration has the right to punish students based on incriminating evidence obtained from Facebook profiles, according to the University Newspaper in March of 2006.[3]



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No

  • Administrators should not make charges based on information obtained from social-networking profiles: The problem is that this information and pictures do not clearly implicate the individual in any particular act.
    • Facebook Patrol. "Administrators shouldn't be snooping around Facebook". March 9th, 2006 - "Apparently, reasonable law doesn't apply to the university, because nobody has to be caught in the act anymore to be accused of something like underage drinking. And because there's no possible way students couldn't have been drinking, or the beer can couldn't have been digitally added to the photograph, or there wasn't beer in that can, guilty is the charge."
    • Facebook Patrol. "Administrators shouldn't be snooping around Facebook". March 9th, 2006 - "The Review is outraged by this policy, since it reveals how deep the university will pervade students' personal space to protect its sqeeky-clean image. The Facebook is an independent enterprise and was never intended to be under the jurisdiction of another monitor. In fact, The Facebook's Terms and Conditions states that users may not post content that it deems threatening, vulgar, harmful, etc. - not our university, not any university."



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Organizations pro and con on this issue:

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Yes



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No

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Bibliography pro and con. What are the main pro/con sources in this debate?

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Yes

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No

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Activists/players: Who are the relevant individuals in this debate?

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Yes

  • Augustin Coria


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No




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