One of the key contemporary journalistic dilemmas — how to define or redefine objectivity in the social media age — is being played out live on Twitter. Reporters’ use of the platform to express feelings and opinions on a range of issues has raised red flags about professional conduct and bias.(posetti http://newmatilda.com/2009/06/16/twitters-difficult-gift-journalism)
Newsrooms need to put in place a process for citizen-supplied material, which may be bogus or biased. How shall sources be identified? How much vetting is necessary for different sorts of stories? Should citizen contributors be made aware of the newsroom’s editorial standards? (Ward http://ethics.journalism.wisc.edu/resources/digital-media-ethics/)
Ethics in Social Media: Digital Dilemmas?
As "Bill Cosby Dead" became a trending
topic, Facebook group owner Gorman was
forced to come clean.
"My name is Jonathan Gorman and I am the
page admin/creator. With the recent
slowdown of likes and high amount of
attention from news sources. . .
I have come to the conclusion that I should
tell you all the truth. Bill Cosby is not
deceased," he wrote late Tuesday. "I made
around 315 THOUSAND people angry."
"I love you all for making me
laugh at your stupidity for the
past day and a half. You're
great," Gorman wrote.
AN ETHICO-LEGAL PARADOX Legal principle
Do no harm
• Law and regulation tend to trail
innovation and application.
• No prior knowledge or scrutiny of
• Some uses can be problematic
• Does the public interest ever justify
breaking the law for greater ethical
• The grey areas where law and ethics
• Media Freedom &
• Free speech
• Commercial Speech
• Hate speech
• Privacy / Data Privacy
• The ethico-legal paradox
• Counter Surveillance
CLOSING THE GAP?
BRIDGING THE PARADOX?
• Convergence + Speed
• Social & Mobile
• New applications coming on stream
• Massive amounts of new and
• A techno-legal time-gap
• Legal, regulation , custom and practice
• Applications and Arguments
• Political economy
• Ethico-legal issues & paradox
• Power & influence
IF THEY CAN, THEN SO CAN WE
The Sun last week said it was
"absurd" to continue the British black
out and defended publishing two
photos of the naked prince on the
grounds that they were freely
available across the internet,
including on the websites of
mainstream media organisations
such as CNN.
If material is in the public domain and
everyone is talking about it, yet we ignore it,
we might be seen as missing out on an
important element of a news story and failing
to inform our users.
• Sun Editorial
Old rules no longer apply
• Harry‟s Privates y v Royal
• Right to know invoked
• Becomes a „free speech‟
argument for British tabloids
HARRY NO-PANTS IS FAIR GAME
• Public interest defence
• Harry compromised his
• We respect the privacy of
the respectable royals
(Wills & Kate)
• Laddish behaviour
• Just doing normal stuff
(according to friends)
There is a clear public interest in publishing
the Harry pictures, in order for the debate
around them to be fully informed.
The photos have potential implications for
the Prince‘s image representing Britain
around the world.
• The Sun‘s editorial defence
"Prince Harry. Give him a break. He may be on the public payroll
one way or another, but the public loves him, even to enjoy Las
Rupert Murdoch‘s tweet
A NEW MEME – ABANDON PRIVACY FOR PRIVATES
• People prepared to give up
privacy to back Harry
• A new „Rule Britannia‟
• Tabloid media uses it as an
excuse to push the boundary of
„taste‟ under cloak of public
MILITARISING THE MEME
D Squadron, the King‘s Royal Hussars, posing
naked with tanks
in Helmand, Afghanistan
“WHAT STAYS IN VEGAS?” • A breach of a code of silence
• Who breached the code?
• Which code takes
• Story now takes precedence
for the news media
• Gossip as reportage
"Las Vegas is about adult freedom," a
spokeswoman for the [tourist] board told
USA Today. "It's important for friends to
know what activities can be shared
publicly and what activities are protected
by the code."
DETAILS AND NAMES LINKED TO HARRY
• „fake‟ Facebook accounts
• „protected‟ Twitter accounts
• Fan Pages on Tumblr
• Social Surveillance of Harry
has been unleashed
A HASTY CORRECTION • Verification – after
• Authentic - questionable
• Voyeurisitc view of a very
public private life
• Vicarious pleasures /
entertainment / values
• Race to the bottom?
changes its mind about a
NEW TIN, SAME SARDINES?
• How public is Facebook?
• How do you manage contacts
who you know on Facebook?
• Can you use false profiles on
Facebook to gather
• Is it OK to discuss ongoing
court cases on Facebook?
• Courtroom Tweeting
• Twit Def and stupid tweets
• Personal v Professional
social media profiles
For the most part, the five main issues
that are causing the most problems, are
issues that have always been problematic
– they have just been transplanted into
digital scenarios instead.
These five issues are:
3. protecting sources
4. gathering information using false
5. contempt of court
Is this all there is to it?
Claire Wardle Networked Knowledge blog
WHEN IS A BEER AD NOT A BEER AD?
• Sponsor responsible for user
comments on social media sites
• Encouraging comments as a form
of advertising and value add for the
• Facebook‟s commercial rules?
• Political economy and ethics /
When a user ―likes‖ a brand post, or
expresses a view in a comment on a brand
page, they push the brand out into their
peer network attached to their own identity.
For VB to claim that User Comments aren‘t
advertisements is to suggest that they
don‘t create value for the brand.
stricter monitoring of Facebook pages by
brands was against the ―spirit of social
media‖ and ―commercially unviable‖.
Advertisers could abandon Facebook as an
interactive advertising channel because of the
difficulty monitoring conversation on their pages.
SMIRNOFF – ENABLING, NOT ADVERTISING
• Do Facebook users
understand the dynamics or
are they being used as useful
With several thousand images online, each
time a fan tags, likes or comments an
image, it pushes that image out into the
news feeds of their hundreds of friends.
These images have a targeted and
They embed the brand within the mediation
of nightlife on Facebook.
A precedent (appeal pending) regarding
liability for ethical behaviour in social
WHAT ABOUT RACISM – „OFFENSIVE HUMOUR‟
• Another free-speech
• Facebook eventually
• US v Australian
• Invoking 1st
The Aboriginal Memes Facebook
page carried hundreds of images
indigenous Australians as drunks and
The Australian Communications and
Media Authority is investigating
Race Discrimination Commissioner
Helen Szoke said it could breach
Australian anti-discrimination laws.
WHO IS A JOURNALIST?
• Barriers to entry falling
• Are bloggers part of the
• Is there a useful
professional and amateur
• Should the rules be the
same or different for
professional and amateur
The ‗democratization‘ of media –
technology that allows citizens to engage
in journalism and publication of many kinds
– blurs the identity of journalists and the
idea of what constitutes journalism. (Ward)
To what extent existing media ethics is
suitable for today‘s and tomorrow‘s news
media that is immediate, interactive and
―always on‖ – a journalism of amateurs and
Stephen Ward, Digital Media Ethics
Unresolved tensions between
‗traditional‘ journalism and the
technological capacities of
Heightening tension between
local and global journalism
impartiality, and gate-keeping
Online, it was almost as if the reporters
were not just camping outside the dorm,
but barging into the rooms and leafing
through personal journals.
―You have reporters that will create a
Facebook identity just to get students‘
contact information, or who will start an
online memorial to get people posting for a
story. It‘s just inappropriate,‖ Virginia Tech
student journalist Courtney Thomas told
The Guardian newspaper.
VIRGINIA TECH –
• False pretences
• Allowing anonymous
comments on news sites
• Verification of Twitter &
other accounts as
Traditional journalistic codes of ethics warn
that people may use anonymity to take
unfair or untrue ―potshots‖ at other people,
for self-interested reasons.
Journalists should avoid anonymous
sources in most cases
Online anonymity is easy and provides a
cover for uncivil discourse
THE NEED FOR SPEED
• Speed over accuracy
• No prior restraint
• Correction after
a media that thrives on speed and
―sharing‖ creates the potential for great
• Should we really be
trying for objectivity
• Is Twitter for
• Should reporters
separate the personal
and the professional?
• What about being
„genuine‟ in social
One of the key contemporary journalistic
dilemmas — how to define or redefine
objectivity in the social media age — is
being played out live on Twitter.
Reporters‘ use of the platform to express
feelings and opinions on a range of issues
has raised red flags about professional
conduct and bias.
(Juie Posetti http://newmatilda.com/2009/06/16/twitters-
THE PERSONAL AND THE POLITICAL
WITHIN THE SOCIAL
• Can we continue
the analog pretence
don‟t have or
Is Twitter an ethical and credible source?
Should journalists have two Facebook
Do newsrooms need an ethics code for
Is it ethical for journalists to ―like‖ political
Greg Wingert / Working Press
A REVIVAL OF PARTISAN JOURNALISM
• A strengthening of the public
• A further entrenching of elite
• The cementing of inbuilt and
Blogging is about speaking one‘s mind.
Traditionally reporters have been expected
to cover events impartially.
Increasingly online (citizen?) journalists
see themselves as partisans or activists for
causes or political movements, and reject
the idea of objective or neutral analysis.
THE NEW FRONTIERS
The ethical challenge is to redefine what
independent journalism in the public
interest means for a media where many
new types of journalism are appearing and
where basic principles are being
NEW WAYS TO INVADE PRIVACY
• The right to be forgotten v.
the right to do business
• Technical solutions like “Do
no track” code
BEHOLDEN TO FUNDERS
• This has always been an
• The political economy of
• What about trusts and
• Who pays the piper calls the
• Freedom of speech and
freedom of the press are not
the same thing
How independent are not-for-profit
newsrooms if they rely on funding from a
limited number of donors?
What happens if the newsroom intends to
report a negative story about one of its
From whom will these newsrooms take
How transparent will they be about who
gives them money and under what
CITIZEN JOURNALISM AND UGNC
• The conditions of
• Eye-witness and
Should citizen journalists be required to be
balanced and impartial?
Should shield laws and other protections /
privileges be given to bloggers, citizen
journalists and other non-official reporters?