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Citation: Hisseine, M.A.; Chen, D.;

Yang, X. The Application of

Blockchain in Social Media:

A Systematic Literature Review. Appl.

Sci. 2022, 12, 6567. https://doi.org/


Academic Editor: Federico Divina

Received: 30 May 2022

Accepted: 27 June 2022

Published: 28 June 2022

Publishers Note: MDPI stays neutral

with regard to jurisdictional claims in

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Copyright: 2022 by the authors.

Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article

distributed under the terms and

conditions of the Creative Commons

Attribution (CC BY) license (https://





The Application of Blockchain in Social Media: A Systematic
Literature Review
Mahamat Ali Hisseine , Deji Chen * and Xiao Yang

College of Electronic and Information Engineering, Tongji University, Shanghai 201804, China;
[emailprotected] (M.A.H.); [emailprotected] (X.Y.)
* Correspondence: [emailprotected]; Tel.: +86-185-0172-4250

Abstract: Social media has transformed the mode of communication globally by providing an
extensive system for exchanging ideas, initiating business contracts, and proposing new professional
ideas. However, there are many limitations to the use of social media, such as misinformation, lack
of effective content moderation, digital piracy, data breaches, identity fraud, and fake news. In
order to address these limitations, several studies have introduced the application of Blockchain
technology in social media. Blockchains can provides transparency, traceability, tamper-proofing,
confidentiality, security, information control, and supervision. This paper is a systematic literature
review of papers covering the application of Blockchain technology in social media. To the best of our
knowledge, this is the first systematic literature review that elucidates the combination of Blockchain
and social media. Using several electronic databases, 42 related papers were reviewed. Our findings
show that previous studies on the applications of Blockchain in social media are focused mainly
on blocking fake news and enhancing data privacy. Research in this domain began in 2017. This
review additionally discusses several challenges in applying Blockchain technologies in social media
contexts, and proposes alternative ideas for future implementation and research.

Keywords: blockchain; social media; online network sites; application of blockchain

1. Introduction

Social media invoke digital platforms reachable by the internet and permit users to
form and interact in virtual groups. People can easily share information, which greatly
strengthens communication and contact. They can find old classmates and acquaintances,
connect with novel groups, or find persons with similar attractions across political, financial,
and geographic boundaries. Thus, social media enable millions of internet users around
the world to exchange information. They deliver access to a massive data source on an
incredible ratio [13]. However, there are certain limitations to social media. Academics,
officials, and users have recognized several crucial problems, including massive control by
limited firms, the publication of false content, discussions around restricted or unrestricted
dialog, compromised confidentiality, and political restrictions [4]. Using private details on
social media increases apprehension with respect to confidentiality and involves security
issues. Netizens face considerable exposure to several kinds of attacks in light of the variety
and particularity of the private materials exchanged on different sites [5]. Netizens can be
exposed to a loss of privacy and control over their personal information. It is inexpensive
to deliver news over a network, and quicker and simpler to distribute it via social media;
large amounts of bogus content with deliberately incorrect articles form online for a variety
of reasons, including to obtain economic and political advantage [6]. Researchers have
discovered that fake articles are disseminated more quickly on Twitter than factual content
by a considerable margin, that fallacious content is 70% more likely to be retweeted on
Twitter than trustworthy content, and that it influences the first 1500 users six times as
quickly [7]. These societal issues pose a substantial challenge in contemporary times. Many

Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 6567. https://doi.org/10.3390/app12136567 https://www.mdpi.com/journal/applsci



When we share, everyone wins









Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 6567 2 of 25

researchers have been working in this area in order to resolve these issues. Text analysis,
labeling, artificial intelligence, and machine learning methods can be used to detect fake
articles. However, recognizing the source of such news for liability purposes remains
a major challenge for which no concrete method exists today. Several specialists have
already started working on ways of responding to this problem by deploying Blockchain
technologies in connection with social media. As an outcome, diverse entities have collabo-
rated on developing prominent inventions towards obtaining a blockchain deployed on
social media.

In recent years, the decentralization of social services has been considered an oppor-
tunity to overcome the main privacy issues in social media, fake news, and censorship.
Blockchain technology represents the most well-known decentralized technique today,
and has been considered in developing the new generation of decentralized social plat-
forms [8]. In the beginning, Blockchain was used only for Bitcoin; nowadays, however,
it is being implemented on many other platforms and used for several different objec-
tives [9]. The application of Blockchain in social media brings several benefits, including
improved user privacy, bypassing of restrictions, and the possibility for participants to
engage in cryptocurrency transactions through social media platforms [10]. Privacy pro-
tection is a very complex concept, usually referring to the protection of data that entities
such as individuals or groups do not want to be known by outsiders. In a blockchain,
a decentralized data repository is generated where critical information is secured, mak-
ing it very difficult for anyone to crack the data [11]. For those in repressive regimes
or where censorship is an issue, blockchains deployed in a social networking context of-
fer the benefits of secure authentication while ensuring anonymity [12]. A transparent
autonomous process can be implemented that allows connections to be verified by dif-
ferent participants [13]. Blockchains make it very easy for an entity to be tokenized and
exchanged on the Blockchain. This means that any content, whether pictures, music, or
video, can be tokenized and traded on the Blockchain [14]. Blockchains can guarantee
the origin, credibility, and traceability of data by offering a transparent, immutable, and
certifiable operation registry while producing a safe peer-to-peer environment for keeping
and exchanging material [15]. Another utility is combating disinformation by tracing and
checking the provenance of potentially perilous data. Another application is the creation of
a registry of uploaded photos containing data such as geographical positions, contratual
agreements, copyright possession, and other metadata that are certifiable by everyone [16].
As we will discuss, several current issues with social media can be addressed by Blockchain
technology, and much research has been carried out in this area, making a summary of all
the proposed solutions necessary.

This systematic review elucidates research trends and ways in which Blockchain can
be used in social media. It identifies research gaps and proposes future research directions.
The research questions underlining this systematic review are as follows. (1) What are the
different methods and techniques proposed by past studies to leverage blockchain tech-
nology in social media? (2) What are the existing challenges and limitations of blockchain
application in social media? (3) What are the knowledge gaps future research can address?

The remainder of this study is organized as follows. Section 2 briefly introduces
Blockchain, its main characteristics, and its components. Section 3 provides an overview of
social media, and introduces the most popular platforms that combine the two technologies.
Section 4 presents the methodology, used in this review, and Section 5 provides an overview
of selected papers. Section 6 discusses the main applications of Blockchain in social media
and answers the research questions posed above, while Section 7 presents the conclusion
together with future research areas.

2. Overview of Blockchain

A blockchain is a growing distributed ledger that keeps a permanent record of all
transactions that have taken place in a secure, chronological, and immutable way. It was
conceptualized and first used in 2008 by an unknown person or group named Satoshi

Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 6567 3 of 25

Nakamoto to create the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. The primary aim is to use a cryptosystem
to encrypt the sequence of bits in electronic files so as not to be anteceded or tampered
with [17,18]. When evaluating a blockchain, the notable characteristics to consider in-
clude audibility, privacy, confidentiality, consistency, decentralization, and integrity [19,20].
Blockchain technologies can be categorized into three types: Public Blockchains (anyone can
join the network), Private Blockchains (the members are chosen based on conditions), and
Consortium Blockchains (semiprivate blockchains limited to a group) [21]. All three types
can additionally be classified as Permissionless (public Blockchain), permissioned (private
Blockchain), or both (Consortium blockchain). A Blockchain network comprises several
components and attributes, such as a distributed and immutable ledger, Peer-to-Peer (P2P)
networks, a consensus mechanism, and smart contracts.

2.1. Cryptography Hash Function

A hash function is a cryptographic algorithm that is widely used in blockchain technol-
ogy. A hash function returns any kind of input as a string of bytes with a fixed length and
structure. The output formed is named a hash value. A hash value formed from data using
an explicit hashing algorithm is always the same length and one-way, that is, it cannot be
reversed. The SHA-256 is the most illustrious of all cryptographic hash functions, and is
used widely in blockchain technology.

2.2. Immutable Ledger

Blockchain is recognized for its ability to be immutable. When people talk about
Blockchains immutability, they are referring to the impossibility of adjusting the data
after it is recorded and stored. This is an essential attribute when dealing with blockchains.
Figure 1 shows how the blocks are linked and how each block contains the previous blocks
hash value.

Figure 1. Illustration of block links.

The first block does not have previous blocks, and is named the genesis block. As
can be seen, immutability emphasizes the fact that a blockchain is very secure and well
designed. When the hash varies and no longer equals the previous hash in the ledger, the
blockchain rejects that hash, making it invalid, similar to a bad check. A hacker would need
to completely modify the next block, the block after that, and indeed the whole blockchain.

2.3. Distributed Peer-to-Peer Networks

By using a blockchain, interaction between two parties through a peer-to-peer model
can be easily accomplished without any third-party requirement. Blockchain uses P2P pro-
tocols, which permits all network members to hold an identical copy of contacts, allowing
agreement over a consensus mechanism.

2.4. Distributed Application

To preserve an effective digital transaction platform, the blockchains used by most
cryptocurrencies utilizes Distributed Applications (Apps). Dapps are software applica-
tions which are usually maintained and implemented on cloud services and can work on

Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 6567 4 of 25

various systems at the same time. Many DApps have been built and deployed on a model
based on Blockchain, although DApps can run on a cloud environment or other network
systems as well [22].

2.5. Consensus Protocol

A consensus protocol is an agreement between nodes in a blockchain network that
submits transactional information, and is one of the most critical blockchain technology
components. A blockchain network is restructured through the arrayed consensus protocol
in order to certify that contacts and blocks are organized correctly, to guarantee the dis-
tributed ledgers integrity and consistency, and ultimately to enhance trust between nodes.
There are several consensus mechanisms used in various blockchain networks. Proof of
Work (PoW) was the first consensus mechanism used in Blockchain. In this mechanism,
the miners, who are the nodes, resolve cryptographic or mathematical problems using
their machines [23]. Proof of Stake (PoS) represents an alternative to PoW, as it is more
energy efficient; it utilizes a collection method that is pseudorandom in order to choose
the validator of the following block from among the current nodes [24]. In addition, to
these, there are other popular mechanisms, including consensus proofs such as Delegated
Proof-of-Stake (DPoS), Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT), and Proof of Elapsed Time (PoET).
In addition to the conventional blockchain consensus protocols, other alternative protocols
have been proposed in recent years for specific applications, such as Proof of Familiarity
(PoF), Proof of Benefit (PoB), Proof of Participation and Fees (PoPF), Proof of Vote (PoV),
CHB, and CHBD; others for more general-purpose use include Proof of Reputation (PoR),
Proof of Reputation X (PoRX), Proof of Phone (PoP), Proof of Learning (PoL), Proof of
Search (PoSe), Proof of Sincerity (PoSn), Proof of Adjourn (PoAj), Proof of Evolution (PoE),
Proof of Experience (PoEx), and Proof of Accuracy (PoA) [25].

2.6. Smart Contracts

Smart contracts refer to computer programs that obey a succession of previously
established instructions stored on a blockchain [26]. Today, smart contracts remain popular
in the cryptocurrency industry, primarily for exchanging currencies. However, they are not
limited to this context, and many insurance and property companies are adopting smart
contracts for better scalability at cheaper rates. In a nutshell, smart contracts are an essential
component for many platforms. The advantages of smart contracts are multiple. A smart
contract allows anyone to protect an arrangement, automate payment, and eliminate the
risk of scams while at the same time reducing intermediary fees. Unfortunately, accurate
implementation of a smart contracts code cannot ensure its complete safety. An examina-
tion of existing smart contracts illustrates that a substantial portion of them are undeniably
exposed [27]. A study found that while developers care a great deal about code security,
there are no effective ways to prove the correctness, reliability, and security of code [28]. In
2021, digital assets built on a smart contracts with a value equivalent to USD 680 million
were cracked or stolen due to safety weaknesses [29]. The importance of smart contract
security cannot be exaggerated, particularly now that smart contracts are acquiring more
attention. One study used pure methods to implement a smart contract design pattern
which increased the security of the source code to allow for the continuous delivery and
deployment of selected classes while updating verification rule classes at runtime [30].
Continuous integration, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment are the software
development industry practices that allow organizations to regularly and constantly issue
new features and products [31]. Research suggests that use of the continuous deployment
framework in generating distributed applications for blockchain nodes can raise the design
level of smart contracts and deployment arrangements, encompassing security algorithms
for registering new nodes in the blockchain network while achieving automation of the
deployment of reconfigurable blockchain networks with updatable and extensible smart
contracts at runtime [32].

Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 6567 5 of 25

3. Social Media Basics

Social media can be defined as a website or mobile application that allows users to
build a network of friends, relations, or subscribers and that promotes social interactions
between individuals, groups of individuals, or organizations. It is a relatively new concept,
only emerging in recent years. The principle is to find people the user knows, which in turn
allows the user to contact other people. Progressively, such a network can quickly become
very considerable. In the virtual world, a social network is an internet site that allows users,
whether professionals or individuals, to share information. Social network development is
changing with each passing day in light of the extension of the internet, and has progressed
from personal usage to corporate media communication and collaboration [33]. People
can create specific profiles and communicate more efficiently through these sites, which
emphasize interaction and camaraderie. These sites allow registered members to submit
data such as birthday information, interests, education background, career, songs, pictures,
media files, and hyperlinks, and to share them with others.

3.1. The Different Types of Social Media

There are different types of social media, all with their own unique characteristics.

3.1.1. Social Networking Sites

Social networking sites are used to allow individuals associate with one another
online [34]. These sites allow users to create profiles with photos and connect with other
users who share their interests, for example, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram [35].

3.1.2. Social Media for Sharing Photos, Videos, and Music

Video hosting platforms provide independent filmmakers, journalists, and other
creators with a way to connect with their audiences and to stream videos quickly and
easily [36]. Apart from the sharing function, such media allow the creation of a profile and
permit commenting, thus placing them in the category of social platforms. The most famous
are YouTube, Tiktok, Snapchat, Vimeo, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, and Dailymotion.

3.1.3. Professional Networks

Professional social networks play an essential role in the recruitment process, and
have become a natural support system for people to develop their professional careers.
While LinkedIn may be the worlds largest professional networking site, there are several
others options as well, such as Meetup, Reddit, and Jobcase [37]

3.1.4. Social Media Messaging

Generally free, messaging platforms allow billions of users to exchange information
across the world. The most notorious are Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, WeChat, and QQ.

3.1.5. Forums

Forums are the oldest social platforms. They are timeless and remain popular with
Internet users today. Users can interact, create discussions, ask questions, and respond to
multiple topics.

3.2. The Most Popular Social Media Sites Today

Nowadays, the most popular social media sites based on the number of monthly active
users are Facebook (2.9 billion), YouTube (2.2 billion), WhatsApp (2 billion), Instagram
(2 billion), WeChat (1.26 billion), TikTok (1 billion), and Sina Weibo (573 million) [38].

Figure 2 shows the top twenty most-used social media rankings according to the
number of monthly active users in April 2022.

Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 6567 6 of 25

Figure 2. Top The twenty most-used social media platforms based on the number of monthly active
users in April 2022. Source: Buffer Library.

3.3. Existing Blockchain-Based Social Media Platforms

Apart directly using blockchains in existing popular social media, there are already
blockchain-based social media platforms such as Society2, Peepeth, Sapien, and Steemit [39].

Society2 is a social media architecture that is decentralized according to the client,
management of information, and speech. Members have options such as exchanging
information, and the platform handles their status, conversation, and contacts [40].

Peepeth consists of Ethereum and IPFS from the database and the Peepeth frontend.
Peepeths posting, liking, following, and other behaviors need to pay gas fees to
be packaged on the blockchain. With no company controlling the data, anyone can
build a frontend that reads and writes smart contracts, saving the content to the
blockchain [41].

Sapien is another platform based on Ethereum; it has the goal of using a proof of
value consensus protocol to return control of the social media experience to users by
creating a truly autonomous social network environment that compensates content
creators and combats bogus information. It provides users with a speech structure
and promotes community enthusiasm and participation [42].

Steemit is a decentralized social media structure that promises to develop groups
and improve social interactions by awarding members with cryptocurrency for their
content based on the number of positive reviews they receive. The platform provides
users with structured news and analysis, appropriate replies to personalized inquiries,
and a stable cryptocurrency pegged to the US dollar, among other things [43].

4. Methodology

The detailed methodology of any systematic review should be fully reported in order to
facilitate better understanding of the authenticity and availability of the reviews results. In
order to assist in the complete and transparent reporting of systematic reviews, researchers
have developed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses
(PRISMA) to explain the methods and terms in system reviews of the latest research
progress [44]. We follow the PRISMA methodology in this study. A systematic literature
review aims to synthesize scientific research on an explicit subject through accurate analysis
of past and present studies. This systematic literature review includes the standard steps:
abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion.

Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 6567 7 of 25

This study covers all the characteristics of a usual systematic review: a clear title and
clear purpose; a comprehensive retrieval strategy; clear inclusion and exclusion criteria; a
list of all selected studies; evaluation of the characteristics of each selected study and the
quality the research methodology; systematic reporting of research results; and assessment
of the possibility of any publication bias.

4.1. Eligibility Criteria

Below, we lay out the inclusion and exclusion conditions used for this review and how
studies were gathered for synthesis.

4.1.1. Inclusion Criteria

Blockchain and social media are recent fields of inquiry, and studies have only emerged
in recent years; hence, publication date was not used as an eligibility criterion. However,
papers were included in this SLR if they satisfied the criteria below:

Papers published in journals or conference proceedings, as these are much better
indexed in scholarly databases and are easier to find;

Papers written in English;
Papers containing the following keywords: (Blockchain OR Blockchain platform

OR Blockchain application) AND (Social media OR Social network OR Social
platform OR Online community OR media platform);

Papers must have proposed methods to resolve an issue in social media by applying
blockchain to improve privacy and security or have proposed a model using one of
the characteristics or components of blockchain.

4.1.2. Exclusion Criteria

The review excluded:

Reviews, reports, case reports, abstract-only papers, patents, magazines, and editorials,
as well as books, dissertations, and theses, all of which are hard to find and infrequently
available online;

Papers for which the full text was not available online;
Papers with a title and abstract not explicitly related to both blockchain and social media.

4.2. Information Sourcing

The next step in our research approach was to determine the online databases and
internet materials to be used data collection. We chose eight highly relevant sources by
researchers in computer technology-related fields. A final search was carried out on 5 April
2022. The databases we used were

1. Scopus
2. Web of Science
3. IEEE Xplore
4. ACM digital library
5. ScienceDirect
6. Wiley Online Library
8. ProQuest

4.3. Search Strategy

The search methodology is fundamental for any systematic review. The determination
of search terms is the second phase. We first defined a search term relating to our study topic;
second, we described alternatives for the terms and similar theories. One of the keywords
we used was blockchain, along with the associated terms blockchain platform and
blockchain application. The other key term was social media, along with the associated
terms social network, social platform, online community, and media platform.

Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 6567 8 of 25

The search strings were built by combining the keyword with the connectors AND and
OR. Each database uses its own search syntax; thus, different query and search strings
were constructed, as illustrated in Table 1.

Table 1. Query Strings.

Database Query Strings

Scopus TITLE-ABS-KEY (((Blockchain OR Blockchain platform OR Blockchain application ) AND (Social
media OR Social network OR Social platform OR Online community OR media platform)))

Web of Science TS = (((Blockchain OR Blockchain platform OR Blockchain application ) AND (Social media OR
Social network OR Social platform OR Online community OR media platform)))

IEEE Xplore
(All Metadata: blockchain OR All Metadata: blockchain platform OR All Metadata: blockchain

application) AND (All Metadata: social media OR All Metadata: social network OR All Metadata:
social platform OR All Metadata: online community OR All Metadata: media platform)

ACM digital library

[[All: blockchain] OR [All: blockchain platform] OR [All: blockchain application]] AND [[All:
social media] OR [All: social network] OR [All: social platform] OR [All: online community] OR
[All: media platform]] AND [[All: blockchain] OR [All: blockchain platform] OR [All: blockchain
application]] AND [[All: social media] OR [All: social network] OR [All: social platform] OR [All:

online community] OR [All: media platform]]

ScienceDirect ((blockchain OR blockchain platform OR blockchain application ) AND (social media OR social
network OR social platform OR Online community OR media platform))

Wiley Online Library (blockchain OR blockchain platform OR blockchain application) AND (social media OR social network
OR social platform OR online community OR media platform) anywhere

EBSCO (blockchain OR blockchain platform OR blockchain application) AND (social media OR social
network OR social platform OR online community OR media platform)


ti(((blockchain OR blockchain platform OR blockchain application ) AND (social media OR
social network OR social platform OR online community OR media platform))) OR

ab(((blockchain OR blockchain platform OR blockchain application ) AND (social media OR
social network OR social platform OR online community OR media platform)))

4.4. Data Selection Process

Initially, we recovered 6762 articles from eight databases. The returned results from
the most to least were as follows: Science Direct, 2211 items; Wiley Online Library, 1097;
Scopus, 721; IEEE Xplore, 708; EBSCO, 583; Web of Science, 517; ProQuest, 463; and ACM
digital library, 453. All references found during the search were collected. Duplicate items
were subsequently removed using the Endnote reference manager.

The screening procedure and ultimate choice of whether to include a study were shared
between two people. While a single screening can use time and resources more effectively,
there is a higher risk of missing the relevant research content. A double screening may vary
from repeated examination of all records (examined independently by two investigators) to
merely inspecting the result. Any divergence of opinion about a papers qualification was
handled after deliberation with the third author, who aided with the choice phase. This
helped to keep any risk of bias within reasonable limits. This method can filter irrelevant
records while auditing subsequent steps to improve audit efficiency. Subsequently, after the
duplicates were removed, two authors directed the eligibility conditions by checking the
title, abstract, and keywords in light of the research questions and debated which studies
should be used for the next filtering. When a decision about inclusion or exclusion was
not straightforward, the whole document was thoroughly analyzed in order to make a
final inclusion decision with reference to the eligibility criteria. After the initial screening
phase, 846 papers were left, of which 804 were subsequently excluded. As a result, 42 items
qualified for inclusion. The process used for screening and selection is shown in Figure 3.

Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 6567 9 of 25

Figure 3. PRISMA Flow Diagram for the Data Collection Process.

5. Results

We retrieved 6762 records from eleven electronic databases, of which 927 were ex-
cluded as duplicates and an additional 4989 were removed during screening. The full text
of the remaining 846 articles was retrieved for comprehensive review. Of these, 42 met the
eligibility criteria, and are included in this systematic review. Table 2 shows a list of the
selected papers sorted by the year, country, references, publication type, and the application
area of the research paper based on the context.

Table 2. Contours of Selected Studies.

Reference Year Country Type Subject Area Cited

[45] 2022 China Journal Computer Science –

[46] 2022


Journal Computer Science 3

[47] 2022 India Conference Computer Science
Engineering –

[48] 2022

United States

Conference Computer Science
Mathematics –

[49] 2021 Bangladesh Conference Computer Science –

[50] 2021 Ireland Journal
Computer Science

Social Sciences

Appl. Sci. 2022, 12, 6567 10 of 25

Table 2. Cont.

Reference Year Country Type Subject Area Cited

[51] 2021 Estonia
India Journal

Computer Science

Social Sciences

[52] 2021 India Journal Computer Science
Engineering –

[53] 2021 Italy Journal

Computer Science
Decision Sciences



[54] 2021 Malaysia Con




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Public Integrity

ISSN: 1099-9922 (Print) 1558-0989 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/mpin20

Ethical Leadership within the Public and Political
Realm: A Dance with Wolves?

Karin Lasthuizen, Leonie Heres & Werner Webb

To cite this article: Karin Lasthuizen, Leonie Heres & Werner Webb (2019) Ethical Leadership
within the Public and Political Realm: A Dance with Wolves?, Public Integrity, 21:6, 549-552, DOI:

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/10999922.2019.1667663

Published online: 18 Oct 2019.

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Ethical Leadership within the Public and Political Realm:
A Dance with Wolves?

Karin Lasthuizen

Victoria University of Wellington

Leonie Heres

Utrecht University School of Governance

Werner Webb

University of South Africa

With the rise of populist leaders such as Donald Trump in the US, Thierry Baudet in the
Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France, who openly debate the roles and quality of work
of administrators and question the integrity of public institutions as a whole, the relations
between political and public leaders have become increasingly tensed. The recent election
outcomes reflect the mistrust of voters in the lying ruling political elite and pose serious
challenges to established political norms and institutions, as Jonathan Rose noted in his
Guest Editorial for Public Integrity (Issue 19, 2017). Meanwhile, high-profile corruption
scandals such as those involving senior officials of the New York Police Department,
Spanish mayors, or a former IMF-chief suggest that ethical conduct in the public sector
indeed cannot be taken for granted.

Research on ethical decision-making and behavior shows the pivotal role that ethical lead-
ership has for the integrity of institutions and its people. Leaders set the tone for the rest of
the organization and affect the extent to which employees recognize, deliberate, and act on
ethical issues in their work. As Patrick Dobel (2018) points out in his recent book Public
Leadership Ethics: A Management Approach, ethical leadership is needed throughout the

Correspondence should be sent to Karin Lasthuizen, Victoria University of Wellington, Rutherford House,
Room 1026, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand. E-mail: [emailprotected]

Public Integrity, 21: 549552, 2019
# 2019 American Society for Public Administration
ISSN: 1099-9922 print/1558-0989 online
DOI: 10.1080/10999922.2019.1667663




organization, from both the leaders at the top and managers, because opportunities to
reinforce or undermine organizational ethics happen at all levels of an institution. In this spe-
cial symposium issue we offer the reader a review of Dobels book, kindly provided by
Sharon Mastracci.

While research on ethical leadership in organizations has proliferated over the last deca-
des, specific attention to the complexities involved in such leadership in the public and polit-
ical realm remains surprisingly limited. Moreover, as Shahidul Hassan advocates in his Guest
Editorial, more Public Administration research is needed into the prevalence and causes of
unethical leadership behavior and its near and long-term implications on public institutions,
because, as suggested above, [i]n the public sector, unethical leadership is not a rare phe-
nomenon. In this symposium issue we therefore showcase a number of articles, which repre-
sent a combination of conceptual as well as empirical work focused on both ethical and
unethical leadership in the public and political domain.

In the first article Taking the Heat or Shifting the Blame? Ethical Leadership in Political-
Administrative Relations After Policy Failures, Minou de Ruiter investigates the tendency
of ministers to shift the blame of policy failures to top administrators. De Ruiter focuses spe-
cifically on the political-administrative interface within two parliamentary systems with min-
isterial responsibility: the Netherlands and the Australian State of New South Wales
contexts. Whereas the Dutch institutional system is characterized by a strong parliament, con-
sensual politics and the principles of the Rechtsstaat (rule of law), the New South Wales con-
text reflects a weak parliament, adversarial politics, and public managerialism. The author
reviews both the formal rules guiding political-administrative relations and the informal
norms regarding appropriate ministerial account-giving, and also experimented with
vignettes. The findings of this fascinating study indicate that public management reform ini-
tiatives implemented within Australia (e.g., where managers enjoy latitude in decision-mak-
ing) is a key factor in whether a system of hierarchical or individual accountability is
enforced. De Ruiters main conclusion is that formal accountability rules and informal rules-
in-use make ministers take the heat instead of shifting the blame.

In Niels Karstens article Not Biting the Hand That Feeds You: How Perverted
Accountability Affects the Ethical Leadership of Dutch Mayors, the author details a context
of perverted accountability in the Dutch local government system. Following the Dutch
Municipalities Act, mayors are formally responsible for safeguarding and advancing adminis-
trative integrity. However, as Karsten points out, this responsibility implies that mayors must
not only oversee the conduct of their peers, but also the conduct of the municipal council
and thus their de facto superiors. This unusual context may lead to what Karsten calls an
illegitimate accountability. The result is that Dutch mayors display a sense of behavioral con-
formity that serves policy responsiveness, but also inhibits them from truly taking on the role
of ethical leader. Instead, the evidence suggests social and career risks are an impediment to
mayors willingness and ability to act against wrongdoing, as the municipal council could
dismiss mayors from office as a direct or indirect act of retaliation.

In the article Secrecy and Leadership: The Case of Theresa Mays Brexit Negotiations
by Marlen Heide and Ben Worthy, the leadership of Theresa Mayformer prime minister
of the United Kingdomis evaluated within the context of the Brexit negotiations. While
openness may be essential for democratic leadership and enhance trust in and legitimacy of


the political system and institutions, secrecy can aid political leaders to protect their power
and policies or preserve their reputation. Mays approach to use secrecy as a mechanism to
create political space and inter alia protect her reputation and power appeared successful ini-
tially, but over time, the counter-pressure for openness reversed its benefits. The sophisti-
cated transparency ecosystemas the authors call itsimply did not allow it. As a result,
May lost control of the policy and the narrative around the Brexit-deal, and with it her own
reputation, which ultimately led to her resignation as prime minister of the UK in July 2019.

Hendrik Marrten Koolma and Cataharina van Dreven examine in their article The
Change from the Creation to the Destruction of Public Value in Social and Institutional
Contexts A Case Study of CEO Peer and Policy Networks within the Dutch Social
Housing Sector, the risk of unethical behavior of organizations leaders for public value cre-
ation. The authors show that a highly productive period in the nineteen nineties within in the
Dutch Social Housing sector was followed by a period where destructive leadership mani-
fested. In the period after 2000, various reform initiatives were implemented. One the one
hand, a transfer of state control from the housing sector to the boards of housing corporations
took place and thus a transition from public to private ownership. At the same time, however,
new public management reforms occurred, which increased discretionary control by leaders,
stimulated private sector management styles, and fostered greater competition among chief
executive officers. Ultimately, these combined reforms enabled the emergence of an environ-
ment in which destructive leadership could flourish. The authors conclude that instead of
authorizing, the new institutional environment has been conducive to value destructing
courses of action by public leaders.

We conclude this symposium issue with a final article by Fahad Shakeel, Peter Kruyen
and Sandra Van Thiel, Ethical Leadership as Process: A Conceptual Proposition. In this
article, the authors provide a thought-provoking conceptual reflection on the notion of ethical
leadership. Deviating from typical conceptualizations, Shakeel, Kruyen and Van Thiel pro-
pose that ethical leadership is best conceived as a learning process that follows sequential
phases in the leadership development path. They suggest that ethical leadership styles could
be developed from being a virtuous leader at the one end of the continuum to professionally
grounded leadership and socially responsible leadership styles in the center, with transform-
ational leadership styles at the other end of the continuum. The position of each leadership
style on the continuum is determined by the extent to which the leadership style is externally
oriented. For example, whereas the virtuous leader focuses on the virtues of honesty, fairness,
and accountability and is focused on the leader itself; the professionally grounded leader has
an external orientation and focuses on legal and organizational principles. This conceptual
study, based on an extensive literature review, results in three models for further research
that provide a new perspective into the function and interdependency of the constituent parts
to study ethical leadership as a process.

The contributions in this special issue show that the unique characteristics of the public-
political context are important to understand both ethical and unethical leadership practices
and outcomes. With it, we hope to provide public officials with insights that help them to
better understand and deal with their extraordinary environment in which they operate and
how that shapes, and perhaps deters, their efforts to foster ethics. At the same time, the spe-
cial symposium issue is yet another call to the academic community to take deliberate


account of the dynamic interrelation between (un)ethical leadership and the public-political
realm in which it is set to take place.

As guest editors based in three different continents, we are keenly aware of the impact
that also the wider cultural environment has on the public-political context and the institu-
tional make-up of that context. This provides a further cue to scholars and practitioners of
ethical leadership: when we reflect on the research findings and want to bring it to our own
contexts we should do so with caution. Nevertheless, the four research articles with empirical
evidence from the UK, the Netherlands and Australia, all seem to suggest that public and
political leadership will be moderated and if necessary constrained by the institutional con-
text. When unethical leadership manifests itself, the institutional system will provide counter
pressure either in the form of administrative rules or accountability mechanisms. This ties in
neatly with the seminal work of Larry Terry and his normative theory of institutional integ-
rity versus administrative conservatorship. Leadership of public bureaucracies is, and perhaps
should always be, a classic struggle between leadership and the democratic principles of
transparency and accountability, and between leadership and administration. From this per-
spective we may appreciate that populist leaders have criticized rather than cherished the
integrity of public institutions, because it shows the resilience of our institutional systems as
longstanding social entities, precisely as Terry argues. For scholars in the field this sympo-
sium issue on ethical leadership and the integrity of public institutions offers a rich research
agenda and a sense of urgency for studying ethical leadership and unethical leadership, and
to evidence the consequences of leadership, in all its facets, on the integrity of our institu-
tional context.


Dobel, P. (2018). Public leadership ethics: A management approach. New York, NY: Routledge.


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Public Integrity

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Introduction to the Special Issue: Popular Culture,
Social Equity, and Public Administration

Sean McCandless & Nicole M. Elias

To cite this article: Sean McCandless & Nicole M. Elias (2021) Introduction to the Special Issue:
Popular Culture, Social Equity, and Public Administration, Public Integrity, 23:3, 217-219, DOI:

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/10999922.2020.1837506

Published online: 21 Dec 2020.

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Introduction to the Special Issue: Popular Culture, Social
Equity, and Public Administration

Sean McCandless

University of Illinois at Springfield

Nicole M. Elias

John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Popular culture. It is everywherefrom movies, television, music, and literary works to other
vehicles for messaging like social media and celebrity influencers. Popular culture frequently
provides messages pertinent to social equity, especially about inequities experienced by his-
torically marginalized groups. This special issue explores pop cultures social equity messag-
ing in the context of public administration. Despite the ubiquity of popular cultures artifacts
and its messages both about and for public administration, it remains under-examined within
public administration scholarship. This special issue is an attempt to bring pop culture topics
and applications into the discipline. As a starting point, this collection presents seven manu-
scripts and two reviews that speak to different forms and analyses of popular cultures mes-
sages about and for social equity in public administration.

First, McCandless and Elias (2020) contextualize pop culture in public administration by
offering a foundational definition and providing examples of pop cultures utility for public
administration research and teaching. Then, using critical discourse analysis, they demon-
strate the benefit of incorporating popular culture analyses to capture the intersection of
power, equity, and ethics in governance.

Second, Borry (2020) explores gender identity in television. She notes how many states
and localities have adjusted their policies related to gender identification, yet, many conver-
sations about this topic make people nervous. She uses Goodens Race Talk Strategies
framework to analyze these nervous conversations in two popular television series: Modern
Family and Greys Anatomy. From this analysis, she highlights the utility of these conversa-
tions in popular culture for social equity in practice.

Third, Colvin and Moton (2020) extend the focus on television to include sexual orienta-
tion. Conducting exploratory research, they examine the presence and portrayal of lesbian
police officers. The first portrayal of a lesbian officer occurred in 1986, and since then, their
presence has increased on television. Colvin and Moton examine patterns in these portrayals

Correspondence should be sent to Sean McCandless, Department of Public Administration, University of
Illinois at Springfield, One William Maxwell Lane, PAC 422, Springfield, IL, 62703, USA. E-mail:

Public Integrity, 23: 217219, 2021
# 2020 American Society for Public Administration
ISSN: 1099-9922 print/1558-0989 online
DOI: 10.1080/10999922.2020.1837506





but also question what these portrayals indicate about societal perceptions of the presence of
lesbian police officers in policing.

Fourth, Jensen (2020) continues on with television, by exploring how discourses on celeb-
rity, signified by Kim Kardashian, shape mass media, policy, politics, and administration.
Jensen particularly targets Kardashians efforts to engage in affecting criminal justice reform
and finds that celebrity discourse places importance on the celebrity, not the policy and
effects on communities. Someone like Kim Kardashian becomes something less like a policy
entrepreneur and more like an everyday maker, raising questions about the efficacy of
celebrities in raising awareness of issues.

Fifth, Zavattaro (2020) utilizes social media posts to examine the interconnections
between social justice and body positivity and fat shaming. Using Sementellis map of the
individual, Zavattato notes the issues people in larger bodies face in society and how social
media, especially Instagram, drive public discourse that obesity is a problem in need of con-
trol. Using Sementellis map, she maintains that people can use or reclaim their power to
alter social justice discourses on body positivity.

Sixth, Love and Fox (2020) move the discussion from social media into popular fiction,
namely how power, resistance, and justice manifest in Chaos Walking. The authors note that
the world of Chaos Walking represents speculative fiction, which offers spaces to examine
many cross-cutting issues faced by societies and that pushes people to critique power struc-
tures. Love and Fox analyze what Chaos Walking helps reveal about these issues through
concepts of power-over, power-within, power-to, and power-with. They conclude by noting
that Chaos Walking reveals socially just outcomes must be sustainable and that power struc-
tures need to be changed through reshaping societal and personal interconnections.

Finally, Brainard (2020) provides a practical example of how she utilizes literature in the
public administration classroom to examine issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Focusing on her experience teaching Perspectives on Public Values in tandem with stu-
dents and her own written reflections on the course, Brainard discusses methods to integrate
literary fiction. She covers the pedagogy issues she faced, lessons students learned about
DEI, and lessons learned for future iterations of the course. Brainard provides several recom-
mendations for including this model in pedagogy and workplaces to explore how public
administrators view DEI issues.

Two reviews appear in this special issue. Smith-Walter and Pannell (2020) review the
graphic novels in S.H.I.E.L.D. The Complete Collection. The authors discuss how the
works exhibit skepticism about how well public agencies can advance social equity. Drawing
upon classic and modern social equity and representative bureaucracy pieces, the authors
address diversity (especially racial representation), equity, and inclusion, and the authors
draw parallels between societal dynamics and the field of public administration. Next, Starke
and Croft (2020) target how hip hop can serve as political theory with their review J. Coles
Brackets. The authors connect Coles work, but also hip hop in general, to musics power
to reveal inequities perpetuated by the administrative state. Key examples include: taxation,
policing, gun violence, and even the structure of democracy itself. The authors note that
given hip hops potential to reflect and internalize administrative shortcomings, it should be
viewed as a legitimate source of political theory amongst scholars and practitioners.


The pieces in this special issue demonstrate that pop culture can be a useful tool to inform
our understandings of public administration theory and practice, especially on social equity
topics. This special issue is intended to serve as a first step in drawing greater attention to
pop culture as a source of public administration knowledge. We encourage future work to
explore different forms of pop culture with important messaging for and about social equity
in public administration. This line of scholarship has the potential to include diverse voices,
new knowledge sources, and innovative forms of scholarship for more equitable approaches
to public administration theory and practice. And as the global community faces issues of
inequities due to the COVID pandemic and police brutality as well as administrative and pol-
icy responses to these inequities, as the field continually discusses the need for administrators
to be competent in social equity, and as popular culture can and does drive messaging about
inequities, the need to understand these intersecting dynamics has never been more needed
(McCandless & Ronquillo, 2020; Zavattaro & McCandless, 2020).


Sean McCandless http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1820-7467
Nicole M. Elias http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9350-7561


Borry, E.L. (2020). Social equity and popular culture: Gender and gender identity on TV. Public Integrity, doi:10.

Brainard, L.A. (2020). Putting perspectives in perspective: Literary fiction, empathy & diversity in the public
affairs classroom. Public Integrity, doi:10.1080/10999922.2020.1782118.

Colvin, R., & Moton, L. (2020). Lesbian police officers: A review of television portrayals and their lived experien-
ces. Public Integrity, doi:10.1080/10999922.2020.1794267

Jensen, C. (2020). Celebrity everyday maker: Public policy and the discourse of celebrity surrounding Kim
Kardiashian. Public Integrity, doi:10.1080/10999922.2020.1756162.

Love, J.M., & Fox, C. (2020). Social dreaming for social justice: Power and Resistance in Chaos Walking. Public
Integrity, doi:10.1080/10999922.2020.1782117

McCandless, S., & Ronquillo, J.C. (2020). Social equity in professional codes of ethics. Public Integrity, 22(5),
470484. https://doi.org/10.1080/10999922.2019.1619442.

Smith-Walter, A., & Pannell, R. (2020). S.H.I.E.L.D. The complete collection & agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The
Coulson Protocols [Book review]. Public Integrity, doi:10.1080/10999922.2020.1799704.

Starke, A.M., & Croft, A. (2020). Hip hop as political theory: Exploring democracy in J. Coles BRACKETS.
Public Integrity, doi:10.1080/10999922.2020.1801111.

Zavattaro, S. (2020). Taking the social justice fight to the cloud: Social media and body positivity. Public Integrity,

Zavattaro, S.M., & McCandless, S. (2020). Editor’s introduction: Our public service manifesto during pandemic.
Administrative Theory & Praxis, 42(2), 233239. https://doi.org/10.1080/10841806.2020.1752593.













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References Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at

Public Integrity

ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/mpin20

The Future of Public Administration

Marc Holzer

To cite this article: Marc Holzer (2022) The Future of Public Administration, Public Integrity, 24:1,
102-104, DOI: 10.1080/10999922.2022.2003153

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/10999922.2022.2003153

Published online: 31 Jan 2022.

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The Future of Public Administration

Marc Holzer

Distinguished Professor (Ret.), Suffolk University-Boston; Emeritus Professor and Dean,
School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University

Going forward, seven key concerns stand at the forefront of possible progress in public
administration theory and practice. That progress is important to the robust health of govern-
ment, and therefore to society, but only if it is salient to the public and its media and political
surrogates. Government at all levels, increasingly challenged in the United States and many
other countries, must address at least seven core concerns if the civil society is not to become
hopelessly contentious and fragmented.

The first, and the basic underlying concern, is a public trust. In an era of declining public
trust, the public sector faces the challenge of re-establishing its legitimacy in the minds of
perhaps half of our citizens. Although the recent pandemic- and economic-related crises have
reaffirmed the importance of government in existential terms, the long-term trend has been
one of declining trust for at least five decades. Yet trust is the glue or cement for governing
societies, conferring upon government its basic source of power. In contrast, dissatisfaction,
disenchantment, and distrust can undermine that legitimacy. A trust deficiency, therefore,
undermines the ability of governments to perform, to deliver services as promised in their
founding documents, their legislation, their agency mission statements, and their oaths
of office.

Trust is the glue or cement for governing societies, conferring upon government its basic
source of power. In contrast, dissatisfaction, disenchantment, and distrust can undermine that
legitimacy. A lack of trust, therefore, is the prerequisite to undermining the ability of govern-
ments to perform.

The role of government has been trending toward becoming a conductor and mediator
between the nongovernmental actors and citizens. Although governments have worked to
explore ways to enhance their legitimacy, some approaches may actually decrease it, as is
often the case when the increased use of nongovernmental actors (both the private sector and

Correspondence should be sent to Marc Holzer, Distinguished Professor (Ret.), Suffolk University-Boston,
Boston, MA, USA. E-mail: [emailprotected]

Public Integrity, 24: 102109, 2022
# 2022 American Society for Public Administration
ISSN: 1099-9922 print/1558-0989 online
DOI: 10.1080/10999922.2022.2003153


NGOs) to deliver public services gives rise to doubts as to the very concept of governance.
While much of the New Public Management movement was designed to restore trust in
government through better productivity and performance, the blurring of the distinction
between the public and private sectors may paradoxically create more distrust, as citizens
become confused as to who represents their interests, where to register requests and com-
plaints, and why they are paying fees on top of taxes.

How might the public sector reestablish its legitimacy? Legitimacy is the acceptance or
acquiescence of the government (and its public servants) by the people in terms of both neces-
sary and preferred services. That trust is affected by a number of factors: how public serv-
ices are delivered, the performance of public sector agencies indelivering those services, the
level and type of participation by citizens, and the flow of information from government to its
citizens. Are transparency and accountability being practiced throughout government? And
are we extending those ethical principles to non-governmental partners? Why do states
exempt some facets of their governance from transparency laws? Drivers of transparency
exemptions should be questioned, including economic development competition between
states; and conflicts between reform initiatives and agency goals. The more open government
is perceived to be on each of these factors, the greater the likelihood that trust will rebound.

A second major concern revolves around long-term commitments. Governments many
simultaneous missions, all within collective resource constraints known as budgets, require
a delicate balancing act. This gives rise to tensions: short-term versus long-term orientations;
balancing the welfare state with fiscal responsibility; and realistic expectations versus instant
gratification. For example, public sector organizations face three simultaneous commitments,
among others: keeping the economic house in order despite international policies and
unavoidable cycles; maintaining legitimacy and satisfying citizens despite often unrealistic
expectations; and coping with crises, such as the pandemic, in a world where citizens question
science and mandates.

A third concern is the prevalence of disciplinary silos. Are we adequately and appropri-
ately incorporating the contributions of other disciplines into debates and analyses about gov-
ernance? Governance has, of course, been studied not only by public administration scholars,
but also by researchers from other disciplines such as economics, business management, polit-
ical science, and sociology. But we have paid virtually no attention to lessons from literature
and the arts, critiques that are evident in novels, in movies, and on smaller screens. Bringing
those ethical and managerial insights into the dialogue is essential to developing deeper les-
sons for the field. In particular, by reviewing different research streams, we should examine
the concept of disciplinary boundary-spanning in the context of messy pr


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