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


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.

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Corporate social responsibility


European Union


Information and communication technologies


National Labor Relations Act


National Labor Relations Board


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development


United Kingdom


United Nations


United States


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Special thanks to Candace Chang, Andrew Crawford, Jackson Gates, and Sivan Ron for their diligent work as research assistants and to Peter Harengel for the early conversation.

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Correspondence to Cynthia Stohl.



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Stohl, C., Etter, M., Banghart, S. et al. Social Media Policies: Implications for Contemporary Notions of Corporate Social Responsibility. J Bus Ethics 142, 413–436 (2017).

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