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The Responsibilities of Social Networking Companies: Applying Political CSR Theory to Google, Facebook and Twitter

Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: Perspectives and Practice

ISBN: 978-1-78350-795-5, eISBN: 978-1-78350-796-2

ISSN: 2043-9059

Publication date: 28 July 2014

Abstract

Purpose

Social networking sites (SNS) are enjoying growing popularity and have triggered new ethical issues including risks of deception, social grooming, cyber-bullying and surveillance. This development along with the growing power of SNS providers calls for an investigation of the CSR engagement of SNS companies. The chapter examines to what extent three prominent providers – Google, Facebook and Twitter – fulfill their responsibilities.

Methodology/approach

The chapter draws heavily on a politicized concept of CSR, namely ‘corporate citizenship’ (Crane, Matten, & Moon, 2008a; Matten & Crane, 2005) and ‘political CSR’ (Scherer & Palazzo, 2007, 2011) and discusses the role SNS providers play in administering citizenship rights. The chapter takes a qualitative case study approach.

Findings

Facebook, Twitter and Google have not only made clear commitments to act responsibly, they actually enhance the citizenship status of their users in many ways, e.g. by offering a platform for democracy activists. Deficiencies and contradictions also become visible, e.g. SNS providers inhibit citizenship by failing to provide sufficient privacy protection.

Research limitations/implications

The chapter is limited by its case study approach, but provides valuable insights to an industry with considerable influence. It contributes to CSR research by applying and testing the politicized concept of CSR in the context of SNS providers.

Originality/value

Although SNS have received appraisal as effective tools of CSR communication, there has been little attention to CSR policy and practice of the companies providing social networks. This is unfortunate since the activities of SNS providers directly impact on millions of users worldwide.

Keywords

Citation

Bauer, T. (2014), "The Responsibilities of Social Networking Companies: Applying Political CSR Theory to Google, Facebook and Twitter", Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility: Perspectives and Practice (Critical Studies on Corporate Responsibility, Governance and Sustainability, Vol. 6), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 259-282. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2043-9059(2014)0000006005

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014 Emerald Group Publishing Limited