Topic 4: Reflective Summary

In my reflective summary for Topic 3, I noted how Aliyu’s use of a current social media trend within his blog was really effective.  This influenced my approach to Topic 4, prompting me to highlight a current, widely covered topic on social media, the eclipse, and the ethics behind hashtag ‘hijacking’ by businesses and corporations.

Liveblogging varsity this year gave me the skills to embed relevant tweets but, frustratingly, Youtube did not allow embedding of John Oliver’s video.  I tried to counteract this by providing a screenshot of the video as a hyperlink.  However, I fear many people may not have watched it because it was not embed within the post.  Nevertheless, I still included it as I felt it held many relevant points.

Olivia’s blog post covered the ethics of celebrity endorsement on social media.  I thought the video included in her post strengthened her point about celebrity influence online, and how they can abuse this by pretending to be consumers (when they are in fact being paid). What struck me, however, was whether celebrity endorsement of their own products or services was also deemed as ‘unethical’, or simply as advertising.

Hayley’s blog post similarly covered a celebrity on twitter – Courtney Love – but in terms of libel defamation.  As I mentioned in my comment, I had not actually heard of the legal case I enjoyed learning about it.  Though Hayley continued to discuss the ethics of employers controlling employees’ use of social media out of the office (in terms of speech), I tried to highlight that employers are not always able to control them ‘in-house’, using the example of HMV.

Overall, Topic 4 has been really engaging and it’s been interesting to read a variety of responses, and comments, on the module.


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Topic 4: Social Media, Businesses and Ethics

Social media is a great tool for businesses.  Not only can they communicate with customers on an accessible (and increasingly popular) platform, but they can promote products and services to a massive audience – Twitter alone has over 270 million active users.[1]

When it comes to advertising, Twitter is also key to a successful campaign.  There’s now even the term ‘reactervising’: when businesses react to live events with adverts.  A famous example of this was the Super Bowl blackout.  You can read more about that here. [2] 

But when does advertising on social media become unethical? When does ‘hijacking’ of hashtags go wrong?

Though I won’t be focusing on privacy in this post, this also raises the question of whether advertising on social media is ever ethical (specifically with regards to targeted advertisements). If you’re interested in digital privacy, watch this TED Talk.

This week, I looked to see which companies would ‘hijack’ the #eclipse2015 on Twitter to promote their brand, rather than contribute to the discussion of the eclipse. Below is a handful that stood out (with BMW’s perhaps being the least subtle).



Kopparberg UK:


Oreo Cookie, however, launched their own hashtag: #oreoeclipse.  This was also successful, and arguably more ‘ethical’ since it didn’t ‘piggyback’ an existing hashtag trend:

Though the above examples are not offensive, John Oliver collects a number of inappropriate and unethical uses of corporations ‘hijacking’ hashtags.  In fact, he argues that corporations on Twitter are entirely inappropriate, comparing them to uninvited guests at a cocktail party.  This raises an interesting point on whether businesses abuse Twitter’s status as ‘a platform of communication’.[3]

Click image to view the video

Click image to view video

John Oliver shames corporations for their unethical approach to meaningful hashtags. However,  a recent BBC podcast argues  big corporations ‘can’t feel guilt’ when they publicly shamed online.  Instead, they have a ‘soft underbelly’ to shame, purely because they care about their ‘reputation’. [4]  This makes them different to individuals like Jamie Stone, who as a result of being publicly shamed online became ‘racked by PTSD, depression and insomnia’.[5]

Twitter has ‘given a megaphone to people who enjoy shouting’ [3] but this megaphone has also been given to businesses and corporations, who don’t feel the same effects of shame. It would be harmful for businesses to avoid social media altogether, as I explained in the introduction, but they tread a thin line between ethical and unethical when hijacking hashtags.




[1] Team Caffeine, ’10 Remarkable Twitter Statistics for 2015′,

[2] Nat Ives and Rupal Parekh, ‘Marketers Jump on Super Bowl Blackout with Real-Time Twitter Campaigns’,

[3] ‘Twitter Abuse: Easy on the Messenger’,

[4] ‘Shame with Jon Ronson’, BBC,

[5] Jon Ronson, ‘How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life’,

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