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ASCE Code of Ethics: Social Media Use

Mohamed Ahmed EL Gabry,
Military Technical College, Cairo, Egypt, [email protected]
Supervisor: Ashraf Osman, Asst. Prof.
Military Technical College, Cairo, Egypt, [email protected]
Yasser Khalifa, Asst. Prof.
Military Technical College, Cairo, Egypt, [email protected]

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This paper addresses the way the personal and professional use of social media relate to the ASCE code of ethics. Engineering ethics is discussed, followed by the social media evolution overtime. The canons related to the use of social media are presented as well as the social responsibility of the engineers. Finally, the personal and professional use are laid out in the end.
Keywords—Socialmedia, ASCE, Ethics


A. Engineering Ethics
Engineering ethics is professional ethics, rather than personal morality (Harris & Davis, 1996). It sets the standards for professional practice, and is only learned in a professional faculty or in expert practice (Harris & Davis, 1996). it is an essential a part of expert training because it enables students cope with troubles they’ll face in expert practice (Harris ; Davis, 1996).
Engineering is an important and learned profession (NSPE, 2017). As contributors of this profession, engineers are expected to present the highest standards of honesty and integrity (NSPE, 2017). Engineering has a direct and critical impact on the quality of life for everyone (NSPE, 2017). as a result, the services provided through engineers require honesty, impartiality, fairness, and equity, and must be committed to the safety of the public health, protection, and welfare (NSPE, 2017). Engineers must perform under a set of standards of professional behavior that requires adherence to the highest standards of ethical conduct (NSPE, 2017).

B. Social Media Evolution
Social media are web-based communication platforms that allow people to interact with each other by both sharing and receiving information (Nations, 2017). The “social” part: refers to interacting with different people through sharing information with them and receiving information from them (Nations, 2017). The “media” part: refers to an instrument of communication, just like the internet (while television, radio, and newspapers are examples of more traditional forms of media) (Nations, 2017).
The 3 main principles of social media ethics and etiquette are (Cohn, 2010):
1. Authenticity—people will respond positively in case you are sincere.
2. Transparency—having hidden agendas will only count against you.
3. communication—getting to know people as humans and allowing them to get to know you.
One needs to always communicate in a sincere and open manner (Cohn, 2010). In case you show others who you are and what you stand for certainly, people will appreciate you and become fond of you (Cohn, 2010). You need to construct relationships with others and you want them to trust you and to consider you a professional to your field (Cohn, 2010). You want to be the person who comes to mind first when they have a question (Cohn, 2010). Connecting with people through social media channels is never a short-term thing; it is the beginning of a remarkable relationship that will hopefully endure for a very long time (Cohn, 2010).

C. ASCE Code of Ethics
According to ASCE, there is a certain code of ethics that engineers must abide by. One of these rules, Canon 3, addresses the statements made by the engineers and how they should be.
“Canon 3.
Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
a. Engineers should endeavor to extend the public knowledge of engineering and sustainable development, and shall not participate in the dissemination of untrue, unfair or exaggerated statements regarding engineering.
b. Engineers shall be objective and truthful in professional reports, statements, or testimony. They shall include all relevant and pertinent information in such reports, statements, or testimony.
c. Engineers, when serving as expert witnesses, shall express an engineering opinion only when it is founded upon adequate knowledge of the facts, upon a background of technical competence, and upon honest conviction.
d. Engineers shall issue no statements, criticisms, or arguments on engineering matters which are inspired or paid for by interested parties, unless they indicate on whose behalf the statements are made.
e. Engineers shall be dignified and modest in explaining their work and merit, and will avoid any act tending to promote their own interests at the expense of the integrity, honor and dignity of the profession” (ASCE, 2017). Canon 3 is strongly related to how engineers use social media and how they can differentiate between the online activities made as personal, and others made as professional statements. As stated, engineers must be objective in their statements if related to their profession as engineers online and offline.
Canon 5 in ASCE code of ethics addresses the marketing and advertising done, and how an engineer should not use misleading information when doing so.
“f. Engineers may advertise professional services in a way that does not contain misleading language or is in any other manner derogatory to the dignity of the profession. Examples of permissible advertising are as follows:
• Professional cards in recognized, dignified publications, and listings in rosters or directories published by responsible organizations, provided that the cards or listings are consistent in size and content and are in a section of the publication regularly devoted to such professional cards.
• Brochures which factually describe experience, facilities, personnel and capacity to render service, providing they are not misleading with respect to the engineer’s participation in projects described.
• Display advertising in recognized dignified business and professional publications, providing it is factual and is not misleading with respect to the engineer’s extent of participation in projects described.
• A statement of the engineers’ names or the name of the firm and statement of the type of service posted on projects for which they render services.
• Preparation or authorization of descriptive articles for the lay or technical press, which are factual and dignified. Such articles shall not imply anything more than direct participation in the project described.
• Permission by engineers for their names to be used in commercial advertisements, such as may be published by contractors, material suppliers, etc., only by means of a modest, dignified notation acknowledging the engineers’ participation in the project described. Such permission shall not include public endorsement of proprietary products” (ASCE, 2017).
III. Social Responsibility of Engineers
A. Social Responsibility
Social responsibility is an ethical theory, in which a person is held responsible for achieving their civic duty; the actions of a person must benefit the whole community (Pachamama, 2017). Therefore, there must be a balance between economic growth and the welfare of community and environment. If this balance is achieved, then social responsibility is accomplished (Pachamama, 2017).
This theory of social responsibility is based on a system of ethics, in which decisions and actions must be valid ethically before proceeding (Pachamama, 2017). If this action or decision brings harm to the community or the environment, then it is considered socially irresponsible (Pachamama, 2017).
B. Social Responsibility in Engineering
Social responsibility is perceived as a main disposition that guides how an engineer and engineering profession relate to community and social issues (Canney, 2013, p. 119). Studying social responsibility, including its measurement ways and educational interventions made to affect its development, allows educators, researchers, and experts to work towards developing holistic engineers on a basic level (Canney, 2013, p. 119). An engineer with a strong sense of social responsibility will hold ethics, awareness and values desired in the future engineer, able to work across social and cultural lines to work out many of the complex social problems our community faces (Canney, 2013, p. 119).
It is the duty of engineers to seek and achieve excellence in engineering (Smith, Gardoni, ; Murphy, 2013, p. 573). When accomplished, engineers fulfill the ethical obligations they abide by to the community as engineers (Smith, Gardoni, ; Murphy, 2013, p. 573). They sure have other responsibilities and contributions to be made to the community outside of their roles as engineers (Smith, Gardoni, ; Murphy, 2013, p. 573). However, it is obvious that if technical standards of excellence are abided by with the intent of fulfilling internal goods, such as safety and efficiency, then both social and technical obligations can be met, and results which better community can be achieved (Smith, Gardoni, ; Murphy, 2013, p. 573).

IV. Engineers and Social Media
A. Personal Use
As the evolution of social media continues and new platforms and ways to communicate, one must consider the image he/she wants to display professionally and personally (Cohen, 2015).
The main differences between personal and professional social media breaks down as follows (Cohen, 2015):
• Personal: using the social media as a way to get involved with family and friends, regardless of their location.
• Professional: social media represents one’s multi-media resume complete with endorsements. It provides one with a platform for building one’s thought leadership and rolodex.

B. Professional use
The engineering sector has only lately started to adopt new media technologies to boost their strategy in their businesses (Neela, 2016). Traditionally, the landscape of social media has most likely focused on a lot of “fascinating” sectors like retail, recreation with the assistance of new and swift applications that social media offers them (Neela, 2016). Social networking websites have become more beneficial to the engineers to be informed, educated and to make communication networks and connect new individuals across the world (Neela, 2016).
Social media networking has changed the speed of the news cycle (Neela, 2016). Most news associations nowadays rely on web-based networking media to collect and share date (Neela, 2016). Everything is double-edged, one good and one bad. If we focus on the good side of the social media networking, it will provide a platform to the coming generation and experienced elderly individuals to share and acquire engineering knowledge (Neela, 2016).
Studies show that engineers spend little time on social media networks. The facts are, 62% report spending less than hour/week, and another 21% spend 1-2 hours. Both studies show that the percentages have barely budged since predecessor company HIS engineering360 asked the same engineers of last year the exact question.
For starters, it is expected that social media will grow in usage throughout the years (Everhart, 2016). But engineers and technical people will require social media choices than the ones currently available, for the following reasons (Everhart, 2016):
• Dealing with highly technical information
• Craving lots of data
• Wanting to communicate, not with the masses, but with small groups
• Discussing only proprietary information-trading secrets their employers would not want them to share with the world.

To conclude, engineers should learn how to differentiate between using the social media networking personally and professionally. There are certain guidelines of how to use these platforms in accordance to the ASCE code of ethics canon 3 and canon 5. If these guidelines are followed, the efficiency and effectiveness of the engineering community will promote the sense of integrity.
1 ASCE. (2017). Code of Ethics | ASCE. Retrieved from
3 Cohen, H. (2015, May 29). Social Media: Professional VS Personal. Retrieved from
4 Everhart, J. (2016, August 26). New Study Finds Little Change in Engineers? Social Media Use. Retrieved from
5 Neela, T. (2016, December 9). Engineers And Usage Of ‘Social Media’ – Community Blog View Post – IET Engineering Communities. Retrieved from
6 Pachamama. (2017). Social Responsibility and Ethics | Who Is Responsible And Why? | Pachamama Alliance. Retrieved from
7 Smith, J., Gardoni, P., & Murphy, C. (2013). The Responsibilities of Engineers. Springer.
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