National Capital Chapter

The Intersection of Peace, Ethics, and Social Media

By Sultana F. Ali, APR

Each September 21, the world commemorates the International Day of Peace, a noble ideal. But the times may not feel peaceful for many of us. Our Facebook feeds are filled with arguments between friends and family over issues we never thought could be politicized—voting, racial equality, the mail. People are evacuating their homes while wildfires loom nearby. And masks meant for health and safety for everyone are turned into grounds for disagreement.

Yet, signs of hope remain. This “World Peace Day” is focused on a simple but important theme: “Shaping peace together,” giving us all the opportunity to consider not only our collective future, but our individual role in making it better. It’s a question many people and organizations are asking themselves in a time where helping one other could not matter more.

On the UN’s page dedicated to the International Day of Peace, an important mission statement is issued: “As we struggle to defeat COVID-19, your voice is more important than ever.” Through individual actions, we all have an opportunity to contribute.

“We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth…”

The power of voice is real, as communications professionals can attest. The PRSA Code of Ethics provides an important guidepost of honesty for communicators, a role everyone steps into when publishing a Facebook or Instagram post, or sending a tweet.

Unfortunately, we cannot uniformly trust the content that we see, and at times, share.

In a recent USA Today op-ed, Alan Miller, founder of the News Literacy Project, and Alexander Heffner, host of “The Open Mind” on PBS, wrote about the importance of thinking before sharing social media content. In their words, “Americans can protect themselves and our democracy by correcting misinformation in real time, staying vigilant for deepfake or cheapfake videos, not sharing articles they have not read, and remaining skeptical about any information about voting they encounter.”

“We are accountable for our actions.”

Each one of us plays a role in that step toward peace or away from it in choosing how we conduct ourselves in-person and online.

The News Literacy Project provides a few tips for determining whether information is real or fake before you share social media content:

  • Pause: don’t let your emotions take over.
  • Glance through the comments: has someone replied to this with a fact check?
  • Do a quick search: in the search bar, turn the claim you’re checking into a question. Look for credible sources in the results.
  • Ask for the source: reply to the person who shared the post, asking for the original source or for other evidence supporting the claim. Raising this where others can see it lets them know the claim (the original post) is questionable.

This World Peace Day, let’s make a commitment to adhere to the highest ethical standards as we raise our voices for the issues we care about on social media platforms. In doing so, we might actually shape a more peaceful future together.

About the Author

Sultana F. Ali, APR, is Past President of PRSA NCC (2016) and the current Mentorship Co-Chair.