Practicing Ethics Online - Jason Thacker with ERLC
In this episode, we hear from Jason Thacker of the ERLC (Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission). Jason gave this talk at our 2021 Digital Ministry Conference and shared the importance of prioritizing ethics over engagement.
The digital age has offered much innovation, development, and promises about a better future. Although a lot of good has come from this new era of technology, there has also been a lot of unintended harm done especially when considering misinformation and polarization in the name of engagement on social media. Technology can shape a large part of our worldview toward a particular end or goal, so it is important that we as marketers, content strategists, and ministry leaders steward technology wisely.
Large tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter are collecting data on their users to gather insights. How this data is used can be good but can also be dangerous. They are powerful tools for disciple-making and impacting and informing people, but they can also be used by bad actors to manipulate people and spread misinformation. Ultimately, we need to remember that the end goal of these large tech companies is profits.
The most important thing we can do as ministry leaders is to slow down and ask some important questions about how our presence online will affect others. These types of ethical questions are essential to ask as we consider how to use technology for growth and engagement in an ethical way:
How was this data captured in the first place?
What are some of the things we need to be aware of as we use these services?
How is the data being used to influence the behavior of people in the real world?
Not only “can we?”, but “should we?”.
We also need to be aware that while divisive content gets more engagement and exposure, it’s important to consider how content will be received by people. The loving thing to do is slow down, be mindful of your goals and purposes and identify your motivations by asking questions such as:
Are the messages we are creating intent on stirring outrage on a particular issue or topic?
Are we representing those with whom we disagree in the best possible light?
Are we seeking to edify others?
Are we trying to sensationalize a moment?
While we may lose a percentage of engagement by being more thoughtful about what we post, we can know that we are championing the dignity of our fellow image-bearers as we ask questions like “can we?” and “should we?”.