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TikTok - Negotiating morality and ethics - oct2020.pdf (394.85 kB)

Negotiating morality and ethics: the social media user’s perspective on TikTok

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posted on 14.10.2020 by Marco Scalvini

This study focuses on the contradiction between the alleged inclusivity and diversity that TikTok promotes and its apparent indifference for ethical standards. Specifically, the goal is to explore how social media users think in individualistic, moral and ethical terms about their online participation when they talk about TikTok. Relatively little research has focused on moral and ethical reasoning in the use of social media and no study to date has provided the opportunity to voice a user’s own experience with moral issues as they perceive them through their use of TikTok. A thematic analysis of 47 in-depth interviews is applied to identify three dimensions of moral reasoning. First, interviewees talk about themselves as being an individual worthy of receiving moral esteem and stress the fact that they have the correct moral motivations. Second, interviewees locate the focus of morality in their own actions, whereas they justify their ethical decision by expressing themselves as a holder of moral virtues. Third, interviewees are aware of the ethical problems that have been discussed in the news, but they do not abandon their moral principles while participating on the platform. In order to reconciliate the conflict, they provide moral rationalizations which highlight TikTok’s positive, inclusive functions for the individual or society. This aspect is confirmed by how they link authenticity to the concepts of inclusivity and diversity.


Declaration of conflicts of interest

No Conflict

Corresponding author email

Lead author country


Lead author job role

Higher Education Lecturer

Lead author institution

Erasmus University Rotterdam

Human Participants


Ethics statement

No sensitive data, Informed consent obtained



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