My Introduction to MMC 6936 Social Media Ethics

Hello fellow MMC6936 classmates! This is Frank Clouser, and I wanted to introduce myself to the group and say how much I  look forward to working with you all.

I’m currently the Senior Corporate Relations Manager for Allstate Insurance’s Northwest Region. I lead the regional corporate relations department responsible for reputation management, strategic communications, media relations, issues management, community relations and employee communications in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Hawaii.

I manage integrated communications that drive outcomes aimed at increasing engagement, strengthen brand reputation and increase consumer consideration of Allstate. I also proactively manage emerging and existing issues that may have an impact on overall business performance and Allstate’s reputation. Provide strategic counsel to Field Senior Vice President and regional partners as a member of the region’s senior leadership team.

Originally from Miami, Fla. I’ve been fortunate to live in Chicago, Denver and now Seattle.

I’m a graduate of the University of Florida, and hope to complete my Masters in Mass Communication here as well.

Best of luck to everyone in the class and Go Gators!!

Documenting Tragedy in Boston and the Ethical Implications

When it comes to viewing or posting graphic, violent images or tragic events, Americans are like moths to a flame. This is evident in the news coverage, social media posts or evening news broadcasts. Instead of asking why or question is this newsworthy or even is it ethical to post, film or record such things, there’s that pull or drive for more. A prime example of this interest is in police chases. “On average, Los Angeles has 1,000 car chases a year, and when there’s a chase, there’s a good chance it will be on TV. Stations treat hot pursuits as breaking news, and when they go live with police chases, they often see their ratings double” (ABC News).

“Televised chases became a phenomenon seven years ago when 90 million viewers tuned in to watch O.J. Simpson in the now infamous white Ford Bronco. Helped by the development of special helicopter cameras, stations have been covering chases regularly ever since (ABC News).

According to a BBC News article, “It’s a cultural phenomenon. We can’t take our eyes of this immoral behavior. We all know the outcome – he’s going to get caught. The odds are a million to one. And yet still, everyone gathers round the TV. We want to see the finale… the coup de grace.”

News organizations are funded by ratings, and with more than 90 million people tuning in to watch a car chase of a celebrity, ethical considerations seem to go by the wayside. There’s a quote from the BBC article I mentioned above that really stood out to me and I think it speaks to this thirst for more or the thrill of scene in American culture:

“This has been with us in America since the Wild West. A guy robs the bank and runs away on his horse. So the sheriff gets on his horse and pursues him. That’s the way it’s always been.” (Why America loves a police car chase)

But is it a cultural thing, or have we let our technology shape us and our interest? There’s got to be a correlation to graphic images being posted, like the ones for the Boston Bombing, to the number of smart phones in peoples’ hands. In a recent article, 94 percent of millennials surveyed own a smartphone (How Millennials Get News), and each one of those has a camera and video recorder – turning just about anyone into a citizen journalist.

What makes me sad about this fact is this question, are people more like to film or take photos or actually help? Yes, the images are tragic and shocking, but what type of person stands back to pull out their phone and record verses helping those in need? I’d like to focus on that question first before questioning the ethical implications of showing victims.

Take this example of someone filming comedian’s Tracy Morgan’s tour bus accident. Instead of stopping to help, they are filming. Not only that – they’ve sold it / given it to TMZ to use and exploit. Not only that – how is an overturned car news?

I cited this in my lecture reaction, but I think it matters here too. Think about what was shared last week with the class and how “the average person checks social media / Facebook 14 times a day while at work.” The platform and interest are clearly set – social media. With the average Millennial getting 74 percent of their news from online sources” (How Millennials Get News) the audience is there too. Now who can provide the content? Just about anyone…

In terms of the ethical implications of photos and images that arose from the Boston Bombings, a couple questions come into my mind – privacy and newsworthiness.

I struggle with the privacy question. By taking a photo of a bombing victim are you violating their privacy? I don’t think you violate their privacy. You have a heavily media-saturated event, so broadcast and videos are onsite, you have a heavily populated event (and remember 94 percent should have a smartphone) and on a public street, if someone was to take a photo, are their privacy implications? Do you have to have their permission, I don’t think so. Moral implications – yes?

So why would someone take a photo of a stranger? Why would you post something so graphic and if it got picked up by someone’s family and friends, yours would be the first image or perhaps the last image they saw of that loved one? Not only this, but as we all know – the internet is forever and now so is that picture. I’m thinking of the post-traumatic stress syndrome and how by posting this graphic image online, that victim may have to deal with that image for the rest of their lives.

“A 2013 survey from the University of Southern California’s Center for the Digital Future shows that Millennials are more willing than any other generation to post personal information online — especially if they get something out of it” (USA Today). While the study is more focused on how millennials share information with companies, I think it’s worth mentioning because it’s this hyper-connectivity that breeds this need to post updates an connect to online communities/ social media sites.

When it comes to photos of children, I do feel there should be some parental consent form. But I don’t know how you would enforce this in public spaces. Perhaps there’s a mechanism in Facebook that could do reverse facial recognition. We all get the tag this person or Facebook’s facial recognition program picks out the individual, but could the same concept be applied to the idea of blurring the faces of people who have not given consent?

The other question I brought up on the ethical implications of posting photos of victims is the newsworthiness of the images. Going back to our week 7 learnings on accuracy, “Our media ecology is a chaotic landscape evolving at a furious pace.  Professional journalists share the journalistic sphere with tweeters, bloggers, citizen journalists, and social media users” Digital Media Ethics, Center for Journalism Ethics.

How do we go from an image like this link, taken in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive of a police officer executing a Viet Cong officer to the an image of a Boston bombing victim? Is it the fact that one was taken during war? Or when it was a professional photographer and news organization? What makes one image acceptable and another ethically questionable? Perhaps it’s the pre and post event view? Or the aftermath?

I found another example of a photojournalist debating this very issue of ethical implications when he took a photo of dying 5-year old child and thought it was a really good read. One particular section stood out to me:

Life is brutal. Life is harsh. And photojournalists have to bear witness to this, for better or for worse. And sometimes you have to make a choice of how to soften the impact of a bad situation to make it appropriate for publication. I photographed the EMT’s and the girl from the right side, because when I first approached the scene, the entire left side of her body was battered and crushed, and frankly it was grisly and would have been completely inappropriate and truly hurtful to her family and friends. I had that photograph. It was deleted immediately after I processed my take.

For those of you who view me as ‘inhumane’ and a ‘vulture’: Do you want to know what it’s like to make eye contact with a dying child as you photograph her being carried to an ambulance on a stretcher, and see the life within her eyes slowly fading to darkness? Can you hear the wailing of her badly injured mother, who knew that her daughter was dying as she lay there, unable to even say goodbye to her precious child and kiss her one final time? Do you know what it’s like to watch another human being slipping into the otherworld, and not be able to do a damn thing about it?

But I stand unwaveringly by my decision to make this image. It is an uncomfortable image. It is a painful image. It hurts me to look at it. But damn it, it’s important. This little girl’s life was important. SHE MATTERED. And the human element is the essence of photojournalism; photojournalism would cease to have any meaning or impact without people in it (Gawker)

This whole situation almost feels like a fight or flight reflex – what type of person would you be – would be someone who documents (fight mechanism in my mind) or would render aid (flight in my opinion)?

I know it is cliché, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Could the written word have captured the horror and tragedy like those images and photos? It puts a face with the story. It humanizes it and it can rally a country.


  • In your opinion, what causes someone to post these types of graphic images? Is it a specific component to our society? Is it an American trait? Or is it how ubiquitous social media and mobile devices are?
  • What are your thoughts on the scenario I mentioned in my reaction? You have a heavily media-saturated event, so broadcast and videos are onsite, you have a heavily populated event (and remember 94 percent should have a smartphone) and on a public street, if someone was to take a photo, are their privacy implications? By taking a photo of a bombing victim are you violating their privacy?  
  • What makes a photo of a Boston bombing victim newsworthy?

You are not a product. There’s a better way.

Those two simple, yet impactful, statements have opened the door to a new form of social media platform. I loved Ello’s manifesto, particularly the statement, “We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate – but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.”

I think this statement gets back to the basic premise of all social media platforms – to connect people, share ideas and develop/build relationships. Look at the terms and conditions of any social media platform we’ve discussed and you’ll see similar language. So what’s changed? What’s different? The need to make money and profit.

Based on many in the tech media scene, as well as numerous critics, Ello won’t survive without data mining or selling advertisements. “Data mining can grant immense inferential power. If an algorithm can correctly classify a case into known category based on limited data, it is possible to estimate a wide range of other information about that case based on the properties of all the other cases in that category. This how most successful Internet companies make their money and from where they draw their power” (Mashable).

However, I think Ello is showing “traditional” social media outlets that it can. Despite having such a strict stance on ads, Ello signed up another quarter-million users in mid-January 2015 (Observer).

  • “Since the sudden Facebook exodus to Ello, requests to join went from 4,000 to 27,000+ per hour, Twitter exploded with desperate requests for invites, eBay responded with an enormous black market for invites, and Ello became the fifth hottest trend on Google searches.”

It appears like Ello has overcome its first challenge – one of many to come. If you want people to stick around and post on a social network, they have to be able to actually share media with friends—or “noise,” as is sometimes the case on Ello. But just letting people post what they want can be a slippery slope for ads to slip their way in through embeds.

Ello’s whole shtick is that they’re a social media platform with no ads. But YouTube videos are like advertisement-filled trojan horses, and embedded video ads don’t stop rolling just because you have an anti-ad manifesto. So Ello faced a conundrum wherein they couldn’t let users post what they wanted without compromising their no-ads policy (Observer). The solution, empower users to delete their accounts if they don’t like the Youtube ads being shared by other users.

The question I ask is – Ello a fad or will be it here for the long-term? Will it be another Myspace and wither away or could we classify it as a niche social media site. Honestly I’m torn – as a social / communication / relationship site, I don’t know how it will survive without a steady stream of capital. It was able to raise $5.5 million in September 2014 when they registered as a public benefit corporation and bound themselves legally to never running ads or selling user data (Observer).

Ello is sure to attract social media users who will respond positively to Ello’s stance. It’s the basic foundation of communication – know your audience. I think their stance on no ads, no data mining, not selling out will appeal to many people, who have the same characteristics, culture and ideology. This is directly tied back to what we learned in week 4, and the social media ecology and the honeycomb framework to understand and develop social media platforms, and the social media landscape (Social Media? Get Serious!). For Ello, I think the site concentrates on sharing, conversations, reputation, identity and relationships. What group of users would flock to Ello? Aside from the obvious answer – artists?

I think the consequences for all social media would be centered around how polluted the channel and ads get. Think of TV, there are so many tools and ways to get around commercials and the cord-cutting wave is in full force among those not wanting to pay cable bills or deal with advertising. With Ello coming on to the main stage, I think social media platforms will constrict the volume of ads on their sites and raise the prices for businesses. That is if it takes off and users unlike their Facebook accounts and turn to other options – much like the cord-cutters and cable TV. As long as business see value in social media and are willing to pay for the data of the large population – I don’t see Ello having a big effect on the industry.

I cited this in my reading reaction, but I think it’s important to flag here as well. “In an increasingly competitive market space, retailers need to know everything they can about their customers: who they are, what they buy, when they buy, why they buy? And thanks to the amount of data flying around about customer buying behaviors retailers can answer” (Why Retailers Should Care About Data Mining). I think this sums up how businesses will keep using the traditional social media sites where they can get the data they need to target the specific customers they need to reach.

And for me, along with many other users, why would I go to a different social media site, when all of my friends and family are already on the existing platform, along with hundreds of millions of people?

As for Ello’s future, so far the Ello team has found a way to escape the for-profit pressures, but can it last? Ello has joined a group of businesses that are creating a new type of corporation structure – a for-profit company that is focused on public benefit. The founders registered Ello in the state of Delaware as a public benefit corporation (PBC), of which there are only about 1,140 in the entire country (The Observer).

This group of businesses, “look at profit as the means — not the exclusive end goal — of their business. They see profits as a means to fuel growth in social impact as well as to generate attractive returns for stockholders” (Huffington Post).

It was interesting to learn that, public benefit corporations function like, and enjoy, all the same benefits as traditional Delaware corporations and they will have three unique guidelines-  corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency. When reading the Huffington Post article, a couple things stood out to me around these three guidelines – all of which centered on how will Ello prove this:

  • Corporate Purpose: ‘To operate in a responsible and sustainable manner’. This language helps ensure that a public benefit corporation serves the best long-term interests of society while it creates value for its stockholders. It will be interesting to see how Ello will demonstrate this.
  • Accountability: Unlike in traditional corporations, which have fiduciary duty to maximize stockholder value, directors of public benefit corporations are required to meet a tri-partite balancing requirement consistent with its public benefit purpose. Again, I’m not really sure how Ello will prove this, but I feel that it goes back to providing a platform to communicate and integrate its members.
  • Transparency: Public benefit corporations are required to report on their overall social and environmental performance, giving stockholders important information that, particularly when reported against a third party standard, can mitigate risk and reduce transaction costs.

While I love the premise to all these, I just need the data to show how this will play out. Working for a for-profit company, one could argue that these same guidelines applies – so what I need from Ello is how are they different?


  • Based on our previous readings, what honey-comb style / social media ecology do you see Ello portraying?
  • What’s your belief – is Ello here to stay or will it fail?
  • What is your perspective on public benefit corporations? Can socially responsible corporations operate in this same manner/vein or is there truly a distinction?
  • How can Ello demonstrate it is benefiting the greater good or the public good?


Before I start my responses to this week’s assignment, I’d like to reference an article I found on a Yelp conversation between a restaurateur and a customer. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you take a moment and read:

Restaurateur Pens Epic Takedown of Entitled Yelper.

My response to this week’s assignment would be based on a mix of learnings from the semester including the social media moderation discussed in this week’s lecture and reading:

  • Have a timely response
  • Demonstrate that you are listening
  • Be positive
  • Take ownership of the issue
  • Show that you are taking action and
  • Reward good behavior… compliment and thank you…
  • Acknowledge points which are funny or move a debate on…
  • Moderation can mean sharing or responding…
  • Don’t respond in anger
  • Admit if you are wrong
  • Remove indecent / obscene messages (or block / report)
  • Refer up if it’s too much
  • Follow-up

With these in mind, below are my responses:

Customer communication 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.”

My response: (made within 5 hours of initial response).

(Insert username),

Thank you so much for bringing this situation to our attention. I sincerely apologize that your dining experience did not meet your expectations. I know you have your choice of where you spend your hard-earned money, and that you when you chose our restaurant, you expected to have a rewarding dining experience.

We take our patrons’ dining experience seriously, and I want you to know we are looking into this matter and will are reviewing where the breakdown occurred. To help us, I would like to learn more about your specific experience and ensure this doesn’t happen again.

While it might not matter, I did want to share that the public health department inspected our restaurant and gave us an A+ rating from their bi-annual 2015 review. You can find that report on Food Safety News Web site and learn about their grading system, as well as the criteria it takes to an A+ rating.

Again, I’m extremely sorry that you came away with a different experience. I’d like to personally invite you back for a dinner on me and see what a true dining experience would be at our restaurant. Please contact me at or call me at 987-654-3210.

Two weeks later.

(Insert username),

Hope this post finds you well. I just wanted to follow-up and let you know we’ve looked into the matter and retrained our table service staff. We’ve installed a mandatory quarterly customer service seminar and have voluntarily asked the public health department to come back for an additional inspection on January 30, 2015 and we again scored an A+ rating.

If you’re ever in the neighbor, I hope you consider stopping by. If you need anything, please contact me at or call me at 987-654-3210.

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.)


(Insert username),

Thank you for your feedback on our Middle East broadcast. I’m sorry you felt that the air time was slanted in favor of one side of this topic. On behalf of mainstream news network, I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on this content and appreciate you joining the debate.

I also wanted to share our website terms and conditions <link would be inserted>, and let you know that we had to remove your post due to language that some of our readers viewers may find offensive.

To ensure we offer unbiased news reporting, mainstream news network has an established a strong code of ethics <link would be inserted>. I’d also like to invite you to a follow-up question and answer teleconference. To ensure we have equal timing, we’ll dedicate two, one hour call-in programs where both sides will each have time to ask questions by two University of America professors who specialize in Israeli – Palestinian studies.

How would you score/ rank my moderation of my two scenarios? Were there any elements I could have implemented or a different direction I should have taken?

Do you agree with my deletion of content in my second scenario? Would you have kept the blog post?

In my first scenario response, I offered free food to accommodate a “poor experience” is that sustainable? What are alternative ways to ensure you are protecting your business from potential scams?

Worst. Company. Ever.

That’s the title Comcast earned after a series of negative customer service public debacles that were posted on the Internet during the past few years.

In 2004 and 2007, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey found that Comcast had the worst customer satisfaction rating of any company or government agency in the country, including the Internal Revenue Service. The ACSI indicates that almost half of all cable customers (regardless of company) have registered complaints, and that cable is the only industry to score below 60 in the ACSI (Criticism of Comcast).

In addition, the Consumer affairs blog The Consumerist named Comcast the “Worst Company in America” in 2010 and 2014. The company received the “Golden Poo” award to its Philadelphia headquarters in commemoration of the victory. The company also finished in the top three in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2013. Since 2006, it has received more Golden, Silver and Bronze awards for poor customer service performance than any other company in the country, including Wal-Mart, Bank of America, and Ticketmaster (Criticism of Comcast).

From here, microsites and social media posts have popped up denouncing Comcast and its deplorable customer service. “The Internet is filled with sites — like, and — dedicated to the company. Comcast customer Brian Finkelstein’s video of one of its technicians sleeping on his couch has been watched more than a million times on YouTube” (Huffington Post).

Consider the following examples of bad customer service examples that have been posted to social media sites:

We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and Ms. Belmont and are contacting them to personally apologize.  The way in which our representative communicated with them is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action.  While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.

  1. Then in 2015 (roughly two weeks ago), the latest Comcast debacle – Comcast Changed Customer’s Name to “A**hole Brown” But Is Totally Sorry
  • Comcast responded with the following statement:

We have spoken with our customer and apologized for this completely unacceptable and inappropriate name change. We have zero tolerance for this type of disrespectful behavior and are conducting a thorough investigation to determine what happened. We are working with our customer to make this right and will take appropriate steps to prevent this from happening again.

After the couple’s experience was made public, Comcast offered a full refund for the past two years of service as well as two additional years at no extra charge.

However, Comcast has made efforts to improve customer satisfaction, including creating the Comcast Cares Digital Team. The Comcast Cares Digital Team began when then Customer Service Manager Frank Eliason leveraged Twitter as a way to communicate with customers. In 2010, @ComcastBonnie won the Customer Service category at the 2010 Shorty Awards. It also created Comcast Voices – an open site, managed by Comcast where consumers can engage with the company. The site offered this description of this service:

Everyone from product managers and programmers to business unit leaders and technical specialists will discuss news, change at our company, and our thoughts on what’s important in our industry. We look forward to our conversations, and welcome your feedback

In reviewing Comcast’s responses to customer service issues, the company demonstrates key learnings from lecture and previous readings; including:

  • Replied swiftly to the issue
  • Showed they are listening by describing the event
  • Be Human – acknowledge they were in the wrong or the employee’s behavior was wrong
  • Showed empathy – apologized for the poor customer service, offered

I don’t know how I feel about following up publically. On one hand I acknowledge it’s important to show you’re monitoring the situation, but is it worth bringing up bad or negative publicity again?

If I was managing Comcast’s social media response or crisis and issues management team, I would have taken the following actions:

  • Execute on social media crisis plan (which would have been established well in advance). I make a point of having this as my first step because I don’t know if Comcast had a social media strategy or crisis plan in place.
  • Engage customers on social media – twitter, facebook, etc. proactive and reactive messaging
  • Create an internal site where to post Comcast messaging, etc. – and to serve as an anchor/landing page for the other social media sites.
  • Establish senior leadership support and endorsement for fixing this customer service issue.
  • Conduct our own internal research – both for employees and customers (since employees seem to be at the center of this customer service brakedown).
  • From this study, announce change in customer service policy:
  • After a few months, follow-up with a new study or leverage third-party industry studies and publicize the findings

But the damage is done and continues to spread… is the end in sight for Comcast?


  • Is Comcast’s reputation so tarnished that it can’t be saved?  Is there a chance to reboot or fix this reputation? Can it?
  • What do you think of Comcast’s response and how it handled these issues? Would you have done anything different or is there something missing that you would have added?
  • Does the Comcast situation remind you of any other customer service / social media issues and how did the company handle it?

Trust in the Outdoors: REI

After going through my social media sites and online routines, I discovered I really don’t follow any particular individual. While there are individuals I trust, I really didn’t want to write a blog about my family, friends or co-workers. So I’m going out on a limb for this assignment, I went with one of the few companies I follow – Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) and decided I would focus on them and why I trust them.


In going through this week’s readings and lecture materials, I really questioned why I trust REI and what this organization gets out of gaining my trust. To answer these questions, I wanted to use Steve Rayson’s New Formula For Social Media Trust; however, I don’t completely agree with this equation, so I’d like to use my own trust equation to assess my relationship REI and why I trust them:

Trust =

Honesty x Credibility x Reliability x Accuracy x  Intimacy x Care/Respect


Honesty. I never get the sense that the REI social media team or customer service representatives are deceitful or lying about the content or blogs they post. There’s always a helpful, informative message on outdoor activities or gear. And they even have terms and conditions!

REI Facebook Terms
Credibility. When I interact with REI – be it online, social media or brick and mortar, I am interacting with individuals who specialize in a particular area who can provide me with first-hand accounts / personal experience on “gear and apparel for outdoor pursuits, including hiking, cycling, fitness, camping, snowsports, traveling, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, bird watching and more.

REI Expert Advice

Below are two helpful demonstration videos that outline REI’s credibility:!/video.php?v=32871248841&set=vb.9062006483&type=2&theater!/video.php?v=32870978841&set=vb.9062006483&type=2&theater

Reliable. Reviewing REI’s Facebook site, the company is consistently provided new content for its members in the forms of informative links, images, videos. You can always count on the site having update material throughout the day.

REI Consistency 1 REI Consistency 2 REI Consistency 3
Timeliness. REI may receive a negative mark for this variable in my equation, but only because I couldn’t find any comments or responses. They did a nice job tying in timely external events, but in terms of communicating to users, I struggled to find any conversations like the Northern Rail Twitter examples from lecture.

MLK Day 2 MLK Day
Intimacy.  I find I am aligned with REI’s mission and philosophy – i.e. They “inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” Outdoor adventure and stewardship is something I do in my free time and it is refreshing to see a company have the same set of beliefs. I am very comfortable with this organization and find I am listened to and when I ask for help and I am not judged.!/video.php?v=3577324953677&set=vb.9062006483&type=2&theater

Accuracy. With something as technical as outdoor sports, accurate information with outdoor enthusiasts is essential to creating that connection and trust. Providing accurate information could me life or death:

REI accuracy  2

Care and Respect. Reading REI’s posts, I feel one gets a sense of compassion and respect for those who love the outdoors; including the  following examples:

REI accuracy 1

REI Summer Adventures- Campsite
This summer, REI adventures all start at the campsite. Choose which REI summer adventure you would like to see next. #REIGearUp— at National Park Service – Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Sliding Through the Magic Hour: Sunset Vermont Skiing by Ember Photography on the REI Blog:
Self-Orientation is another component where REI may receive a negative grade. This is a for-profit company so many of the social media communications reference sales, gift ideas, gear sold in stores, etc. The call to action was pretty clear – go only to REI to get your outdoor gear. But is this necessarily a bad thing? REI is providing me a community to discuss and share my ideas, with local experts who I can open up to and not be judged. They demonstrate care and respect for what I am passionate about and they are very accurate, timely and reliable.

How does REI benefit from my trust?

  • Communication By trusting them, I help distribute their message for free. With every click, like and share, I’m promoting them as trustworthy, outdoor experts.
  • Referrals. By sharing their information, and in personal conversations, I refer friends and family to their sites and stores.
  • Pure Profit. Because I am aligned with them and appreciate what they provide, I will only go to them for my outdoor shopping needs.

Looking at why I trust REI through The Trusted Advisor lens (My lecture reaction has more background on this book), I feel it addresses and demonstrates the characteristics of a trustful company. Below is a passage about what characteristics Trusted Advisors share the from a client perspective:
• Are consistent, we can depend on them
• Don’t try to force things on us
• Help us think things through (it’s our decision)
• Don’t substitute their judgment for ours
• Help us think and separate our logic from our emotion
• Don’t pull their punches (we can rely on them to tell us the truth)
• Give us reasoning (help us think) not just their conclusions
• Challenge our assumptions (help us uncover the false assumptions we’ve been working under)
• Make us feel comfortable and casual personally (but they take the issues seriously)
• Act like a real person, not someone in a role
• Are reliably on our side and always seem to have our interests at heart
• Have a sense of humor to diffuse (our) tension in tough situations

What do you think? How many of these characteristics does REI achieve?
I found this quote from Steve Covey and thought it did a nice job of summarizing trust. I’ll leave you with this thought –

“Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust. Nothing is as fulfilling as a relationship of trust. Nothing is as inspiring as an offering of trust. Nothing is as profitable as the economics of trust. Nothing has more influence than a reputation of trust.” – Stephen Covey

• Would you agree with my assessment of REI? Do you view them as a trustworthy company?
• Using your own trust equation, how would you rank REI?
• Should individuals and companies be held to two different levels or standards of trust?

Pin this: Reviewing Pinterest’s Terms and Conditions

MMC 6936 – Week 2 Readings: Terms and Conditions

Pinterest is a place to discover ideas for all your projects and interests, hand-picked by people like you.”

When considering potential issues, safeguards and ethical concerns in Pinterest’s terms and conditions, this social media platform is in the business of helping users connect by enabling them to post and share photos and images (copyrighted materials) all while protecting itself from copyright infringement, liability and overall risks of responsibility or accountability – all while walking an ethical tightrope.

In reviewing Pinterest’s terms, I was surprised to find that unlike social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest provides more user-friendly material and content in its terms and conditions. The terms come across as more conversational and as more of “How-to” guide. To help avoid confusion among users, I liked how Pinterest provides simplified language and helpful, tangible examples that users can understand and help their experience. Consider the following examples:

Simplified Comm 1

Simplified Comm 2

Examples Provided

While one can easily correlate contract theory of ethics to the terms, I found myself thinking about the Ethics of care and how Pinterest’s terms and conditions made more of an effort to include emotion, bonding and relationships. Why is that? Why do I feel like part of the conversation when it comes to Pinterest versus an authoritative dictatorship when it comes to Facebook (I.e. You will do this, etc.) Is it the user base? According to analysis by RJMetrics, 80 percent of Pinterest users are female. Beyond this, more than 90 percent of all pins are created/shared by women. There are apparently “15x more pins by women than by men” on the site.

Concerns & Pinterest Safeguards:

Copyright. With thousands of photos and images being pinned every minute, copyright infringement and liability have to be high on the priorities list. Pinterest addresses the question of intellectual property rights by acknowledging them, issuing their stands and specifically referencing  the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. I like how it provides users with the source and helps answer the “Why?” question.

Your rights. Despite respecting intellectual property rights, users are still signing away their rights to their content and IP. “You grant Pinterest and its users a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub licensable, worldwide license to use, store, display, reproduce, re-pin, modify, create derivative works, perform, and distribute your User Content on Pinterest solely for the purposes of operating, developing, providing, and using the Pinterest Products.”

Arbitration. This is a new term I hadn’t seen before and thought that it was interesting to see how Pinterest tries to prevent or limit lawsuits, by having users go through arbitration first.

  • For any dispute you have with Pinterest, you agree to first contact us and attempt to resolve the dispute with us informally.
  • If Pinterest has not been able to resolve the dispute with you informally, we each agree to resolve any claim, dispute, or controversy (excluding claims for injunctive or other equitable relief) arising out of or in connection with or relating to these Terms by binding arbitration by the American Arbitration Association


But can Pinterest be liable? No, it’s safeguarded itself by you using its services and agreeing to its terms:

  • Pinterest takes no responsibility and assumes no liability for any User Content that you or any other user or third party posts or transmits using our Products. You understand and agree that you may be exposed to User Content that is inaccurate, objectionable, inappropriate for children, or otherwise unsuited to your purpose.

As with any other social media site, the responsibility lies with you.


    1. I contend that Pinterest has one of the most user-friendly / customer-centric terms and conditions of any social media site. But are there others? And would you agree or if so which sites? So why does Pinterest adopt a more user-friendly style for its terms?
    2. Pinterest states, “Our Products are controlled and operated from the United States, and we make no representations that they are appropriate or available for use in other locations.” Since social media has no borders or boundaries, how does international law apply to social media terms and conditions?