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Business Ethics: The Case of Facebook

Essay by   •  October 30, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  2,225 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,429 Views

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If the main end goal of any human being is being happy, living in peace and wellness, then ethics is the main tool one should use to reach that goal. Of course most of the people follow ethics, for which we have developed the amount of knowledge, intelligence, technical achievements, peace and humanity, in general, at the present time. However, history shows that there was and will be some people who would rather be unethical or act differently than others given the case, in order to gain personal prospective, such as power, wealth, popularity, etc.

If not all, then most of the people would like to be rich, which is in hand, is the means of meeting the main end goal - being happy, living in peace. (At least, we believe with wealth we could reach that goal!). But the question is, can one be unethical in order to get one step closer to his main end goal?

Ethics is all about rational choice; the decision to be made must have some rational consistency that backs it up, that proves the decision taken is the best, or fairest given there are several of them to choose from.

To explore and discuss the concept of ethics, I will be using a case study of well known lawsuit case between the CEO and co-founder of Facebook, the social networking site, Mark Zuckerberg and twin brothers: Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra.

Here are some main events of the case:

December 2002: Harvard students Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra conceive of a college social network and hire Sanjay Mavinkurve to work on what later becomes ConnectU;

May 2003: Mavinkurve graduates from Harvard, with the site still unfinished; Victor Gao, another Harvard student, later picks up work on the site;

November 2003: After Gao leaves the project, ConnectU's founders hire Mark Zuckerberg to work on Harvard Connection, a website that later became ConnectU; and described their plans to A) build the site for Harvard students only, by requiring new users to register with Harvard.edu email addresses, and B) expand Harvard Connection beyond Harvard to schools around the country;

January 11, 2004: While still promising to finish Harvard Connection, Zuckerberg registers the domain for theFacebook.com, a fact that the ConnectU founders allege that didn't disclose in a meeting three days later;

January 14, 2004: Mark Zuckerberg met with Cameron, Tyler, and Divya for the last time. During the meeting at Kirkland House, Mark expressed doubts about the viability of HarvardConnection.com;

February 4, 2004: Zuckerberg launches theFacebook.com to Harvard students;

February 10, 2004: Cameron Winklevoss sent a letter to Zuckerberg accusing him of breaching their agreement and stealing their idea;

April 2004: Facebook expands to other colleges;

April 13, 2004: Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskowitz, and Eduardo Saverin form TheFacebook.com LLC, a partnership (despite this, Saverin is not credited today as a founder by the company);

Spring 2004: ConnectU hires a Web-development firm, iMarc;

May 2004: Cameron Winklevoss allegedly emails his father detailing a plan to steal email addresses from Facebook's website;

May 2004: Having appealed to Harvard administrators, without success, to rule that Zuckerberg violated the school's honor code, ConnectU's founders appeal to Harvard president Larry Summers, who also rebuffs them;

May 21, 2004: ConnectU launches its first website, Harvard Connection;

June 11, 2004: ConnectU's founders allegedly ask iMarc to write a script that automatically logs into the Facebook website and harvests users' email addresses; iMarc refuses;

July 22, 2004: ConnectU's founders allegedly send thousands of emails to Facebook users inviting them to join ConnectU;

September 2, 2004: ConnectU files a lawsuit against Zuckerberg and other Facebook founders;

February 2005: Facebook blocks ConnectU's alleged continued attempts to harvest emails from its website;

May 26, 2005: Accel Partners invests $13 million in Facebook;

August 23, 2005: Facebook, at bad-boy entrepreneur Sean Parker's instigation, buys the Facebook.com domain name for $200,000;

October 14, 2005: Facebook's founders file a motion to dismiss ConnectU's lawsuit;

September 11, 2006: Facebook allows any user with an email address to join the site, and its user base begins to grow explosively;

March 9, 2007: Facebook files a countersuit against ConnectU, charging it, among other things, with violating antispam laws;

March 28, 2007: A court dismisses ConnectU's original lawsuit, without prejudice, allowing ConnectU to immediately file a new lawsuit against Facebook's founders as well as the company itself;

June 23, 2007: Court grants a hearing on a motion to dismiss ConnectU's lawsuit against Facebook, scheduled for July 25;

February 2008: Facebook and ConnectU agreed to settle a lawsuit, valued at $65 million. In the 2008 settlement, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss agreed to transfer the ownership of a social networking site, ConnectU, to Facebook;

June 2008: Winklevoss appealed the settlement in California's ninth district, accusing Facebook of trading its stock without disclosing material information;

July 22, 2011: the Winklevoss suit against Facebook was thrown out by a federal judge in Boston.

Few additional facts on case: Zuckerberg did not use any of the script codes from the project ConnectU in his own project; although not formal, there was an oral agreement between Zuckerberg and above trio on developing the ConnectU project.

Ethical question: are Zuckerberg's actions on creating and developing social network ethical, while working for his classmates on another similar social network project?

As we know, for an action to be ethical three conditions must be met. Let's explore them one at a time.

The generalization test states that the reason for an action should be consistent with the assumption that everyone who has the same reason would act the same way.

Now, what were the reasons for Zuckerberg to act this way? Why would he accept to work on other's social networking project if he had one of his own to work on? Did

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