You are now in the main content area

Ryerson CSR Institute Session: Social Media & Disruption - Exploring Responses

December 06, 2018
11:30 AM EST - 1:30 PM EST
Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, 55 Dundas St. West, Toronto [9th floor, room TRS 3-129]

For many, social media platforms have become the central communicative hub of their lives, allowing them to stay in touch with friends, to share ideas, photos, etc., to learn of news events, to express opinions, find others who are like-minded and form into groups, and to engage in commercial transactions. In many respects, social media can be seen as a positive development, as it facilitates rapid and virtually instantaneous peer to peer interactions that can foster individual, community and societal knowledge, creativity, innovation, re-consideration of existing norms and creation of new norms, and learning in a way that has heretofore not been possible. It has also disrupted conventional modes of societal interaction, such as pertaining to the production and dissemination of news, political decision-making, the provision of commercial services and education, and some would say it is affecting conventional approaches to inter-personal and family dynamics.  In effect, a small number of companies now have considerable influence over how societal and individual communications and decisions are made. In this regard social media disruption raises significant questions concerning the need for regulation of its negative effects, and if so how, and by whom.

In his presentation Information Fiduciaries and the Grand Bargain to Make Tech Companies More Trustworthy, Dr. Jonathan Zittrain elaborates on arguments he with other authors have made elsewhere such as in a similarly article in The Atlantic (external link) . In law, fiduciaries have to keep our secrets and they can’t use the information they collect about us against our interests.  And because they know so much about us, and because we have to depend on them, the law requires them to act in good faith.  Dr. Zittrain suggests perhaps entities such as Facebook, given the pivotal role they play in terms of collecting personal information, should perhaps be subject to similar legal obligations as conventional fiduciaries. 

In his presentation, Social Media and Responsible Communication: We Need to Talk, Dr. Kernaghan Webb explores the proposition that the cumulative, significant, fast-evolving and transboundary effects of social media on multiple aspects of our lives, suggests the need for innovative combined government-private sector-civil society, cross-issue regulatory responses to curb social media's problematic aspects, coalescing around what he calls the "responsible communication" concept, as elaborated on in a related set of principles.

Dr. Jonathan Zittrain is the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at the Harvard Law School Library, and co-founder of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.  His research interests include battles for control of digital property and content, cryptography, electronic privacy, the roles of intermediaries within Internet architecture, human computing, and the useful and unobtrusive deployment of technology in education.

Dr. Kernaghan Webb is an Associate Professor in the Department of Law and Business, Ted Rogers School of Management, at Ryerson University, and is the Director of the Ryerson University Institute for the Study of Corporate Social Responsibility.  His work has been quoted and followed by the Supreme Court of Canada, he is the co-Chair of the federally-established CSR Centre for Excellence for the Extractive Sector, he acted as Special Advisor to the UN Global Compact on ISO 26000, he has played leadership roles in the development of international standards and domestic legislation, and he has published extensively.  His research revolves around a concept he calls "sustainable governance," which suggests that to address the complex, fast-evolving, cross-jurisdictional environmental, social and economic challenges necessitates the use of innovative regulatory approaches harnessing the unique capabilities and energies of government, the private sector and civil society.