Social Media Policies: Implications for Contemporary Notions of Corporate Social Responsibility

Cynthia Stohl, Michael Etter, Scott Banghart, DaJung Woo

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Three global developments situate the context of this investigation: the increasing use of social media by organizations and their employees, the burgeoning presence of social media policies, and the heightened focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR). In this study the intersection of these trends is examined through a content analysis of 112 publicly available social media policies from the largest corporations in the world. The extent to which social media policies facilitate and/or constrain the communicative sensibilities and values associated with contemporary notions of CSR is considered. Overall, findings indicate that a large majority of policies, regardless of sector or national headquarters, increasingly inhibit communicative tenets of contemporary CSR (i.e., free speech, collective information sharing, and stakeholder engagement/dialogue) and thereby diminish employee negotiation and participation in the social responsibilities of corporations. Moreover, policies generally enact organizational communication practices that are contrary to international CSR guidelines (e.g., the UN Global Compact and other international agreements). Findings suggest that social media policies represent a relatively unrecognized development in the institutionalization of CSR communicative norms and practices that call into question the promising affordances of social media for the inclusion of various voices in the public negotiation of what constitutes corporate social responsibility.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Business Ethics
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)413-436
    Number of pages24
    Publication statusPublished - May 2017


    • Boundary permeability
    • Communication rights
    • Corporate social responsibility
    • Dialogic processes
    • Employee communication
    • Social media policies

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