Civil Engineers and the Social Media

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The introduction and upkeep of the Code of Ethics is an essential component of the civil engineering discipline. Engineers must be ethical about their engineering responsibilities and decision-making processes. The health and protection of engineers, as well as the general public, are dependent on how engineers conduct their duties ethically. In 1914, the ASCE Code of Ethics was established against this backdrop. All ASCE members are required to follow the defined rules and regulations. The violation of ASCE Code of Ethics results to an investigation by the Committee on Professional Conduct (CPP). The CPP decides on what disciplinary action should be taken.

The use of social media seems to be ubiquitous in today’s personal and professional environment. Social media constitutes web-based platforms that people use to create and share social content such as pictures, videos, individual profiles, and opinions. Facebook is currently the most popular social media site with over 1.5 billion active users. There are also other popular sites such LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram,, and YouTube. Civil engineers thus have an easy way of staying connected to their families, friends, and colleagues through the social media sites.

There are several advantages of using social media for engineers. Professionally, social media helps engineers to build and maintain relationships with their employers, current and future clients, advisers, suppliers, and instructors. The engineering field is continually evolving with new trends coming up across the world. Social media is therefore helpful in enabling engineers to stay updated and keep up with latest news and trends in the engineering world (Michelfelder & Jones, 2013).

Despite the benefits above, the use of social media comes with its own set of disadvantages. Engineers must always be careful to ensure that they are not breaching their professional code of conduct when they engage in social media activities. Even though social media is used for communication, engineers must be keen to follow the set guidelines concerning the canon of communication in the ASCE Code of Ethics. Social media communication happens in real time. A small ethical mistake or oversight can be amplified to a worldwide audience. Just like other professions, engineers must be at all times aware of the high moral standards and expectations from the society.

The ASCE Code of Ethics addresses the issue of ethics by stipulating some specific rules and regulations that engineers are expected to follow. Canon 4 of the code is clear in stating that “Engineers shall act in professional matters for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees and shall avoid conflicts of interest” (Pfatteicher, 2003). Therefore, engineers should put the interests of their employers or their clients above their interests. Engineers should not use social media to portray unauthorized information about their client or employer. The ASCE Code of Ethics dictates that it is not good practice for an engineer to reveal information on highly innovative projects without the employer having disclosed such information to the public. Such disclosure breaches the ASCE Code of Ethics (Pfatteicher, 2003). An engineer may be interested in enhancing his professional profile without considering the adverse effects of such a post on the employer. Failure to keep such a corporate secret and to expose it to the employer’s competitors can cause the client significant monetary losses.

It also against the ethics for a civil engineer to use social media to make heedless criticism of other engineers. An engineer should be careful about what they post on social media about fellow engineers and contractors. The ASCE provides for the protection of individual engineers through section (g) Canon 5 which states that “Engineers shall not maliciously or falsely, directly or indirectly, injure the professional reputation, prospects, practice or employment of another engineer or indiscriminately criticize another’s work” (Vesilind & Gunn, 1998). For this reason, engineers must be careful to avoid bringing down other’s works maliciously. Constructive criticism is encouraged since it promotes the welfare of the public. However, unless necessary, engineers should avoid using social media as a platform for criticism. Instead, they could look for other more productive avenues such as a one-on-one meeting or through a colleague.

Misconduct may also arise when an engineer uses social media to express an opinion about a topic without having the accurate facts (Vesilind & Gunn, 1998). Misconduct also constitutes making recommendations without having adequate knowledge on the subject. Wrong engineering advice can lead to loss of lives and other related damages. Engineers should also be aware of the impact of their words and actions to the welfare of the society. When giving any opinion on social media, engineers must ensure that the view originates from an honest conviction. Engineers must also base their opinions on a background of thorough research, technical competence and sufficient knowledge of the facts (Michelfelder & Jones, 2013).

The Code of Ethics does not, however, mean that engineers have no freedom of speech. Engineers are allowed to speak out to create awareness on specific issues and situations. An engineer holds the mandate to speak out whenever a situation or a decision is adjudged to cause adverse effects on the welfare, safety, and death of the public. The engineer can speak out objectively and with honest conviction, armed with the right facts even through the social media. For example, if an engineer notices an improperly constructed building that is at a risk of collapsing or related failing infrastructure, he can address the issue on social media. Such an action could save many lives and avoid destruction of property (Michelfelder & Jones, 2013).

Canon 1 of ASCE says that engineers should be first and foremost dedicated to the safety, health, and welfare of the public (Davis, 2001). No matter how cumbersome it is for an engineer, they must always uphold this rule. Similarly, it is unethical for an engineer to know that something is wrong and choose not to speak up about it. In such scenarios, social media is an excellent platform to create awareness and save lives. Engineers must make sure that the information they want to give or share through social media is appropriately vetted and verified to avoid misleading clients, colleagues and the public (Michelfelder & Jones, 2013).

Social media may affect the public perception of civil engineers positively or negatively, depending on how they use it. Engineers should take the necessary precautions in their use of social media for professional or social use. It is important to note that social media use is similar to using emails, print correspondence or any other media that reaches many people. The only difference is that social media reaches a larger magnitude of people within a short time. Information spread through social media also flows at high speeds in comparison to other traditional ways of professional or personal communication. These factors make the use of social media a very delicate activity. Engineers should at all times exercise caution when using social media. Good and practically sound judgment must be made during the utilization of social media to maintain an engineers’ reputation (Michelfelder & Jones, 2013).

Social media posts cannot define civil engineers, their duties to their employer and the public. Civil engineers exhibit responsible choices concerning the social media professional and personal posts and comments made. The engineers maintain good relations with their employers, colleagues, and suppliers via different social media platforms. However, Irresponsible and unethical use of social media can even lead to termination of contracts and disciplinary action against an engineer. The recently updated code of ethics that is July 29th, 2017, canon 3 of the ASCE code on the issues of actual statements, brings out clearly how professionals should conduct themselves on social media both socially and professionally. Social media platforms should be used with utmost caution putting into consideration the welfare of the employer, client and yourself because some actions and statements may not be palatable thus caution should be exercised (Michelfelder & Jones, 2013).


Davis, M. (2001). Three myths about codes of engineering ethics. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 20(3), 8-14.

Michelfelder, D., & Jones, S. A. (2013). Sustaining engineering codes of ethics for the twenty-first century. Science and Engineering Ethics, 19(1), 237-258.

Pfatteicher, S. K. (2003). Depending on character: ASCE shapes its first code of ethics. Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, 129(1), 21-31.

Vesilind, P. A., & Gunn, A. S. (1998). Sustainable development and the ASCE code of ethics. Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, 124(3), 72-74.

December 21, 2022

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