Code of Ethics for New Media Users (Which is Almost Everyone)
First of all, what is new media?
New media is an umbrella term that generally includes any media that is digital, interactive, social, and/or internet mediated. Examples are social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, blogs, and instant messaging (e-mail, texting, Messenger and other messaging apps, etc.). Other examples of new media are online publications like Buzzfeed and Vice.
Who does the ethics code apply to?
This code of ethics applies to everyone who uses new media as a publishing platform (such as social media or blogging) and does not identify as a professional journalist or writer for a new media publication. In other words, it applies to anyone and everyone else, the ordinary people of the internet. There are already a number of comprehensive ethics codes in place for professional journalists, such as the Canadian Association of Journalist’s (CAJ) Ethics Guidelines (http://www.caj.ca/ethics-guidelines/) and the Society of Professional Journalist’s (SPJ) Code of Ethics (http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp) but not for ordinary people who casually use the internet to publish whatever the heck they want. Since new media has given ordinary citizens the same publishing power as professional journalists, I believe it is not only fair but also necessary for the users of new media to have and abide by a code of ethics, just like the rest of their professional counterparts. It may be impossible to enforce, since most people are posting things at their own will and for their own motives rather than for a business and a paycheck. But I don’t think the point of this ethics code is to enforce it and reprimand those who break it. Rather, I think the act of writing and publishing one would help raise awareness for ethical use of new media and in turn increase the consciousness of new media users from an ethical standpoint. We all have a right to free speech, but just because we can say something doesn’t mean we should. I have written this code of ethics keeping this in mind. The main purpose of the code is to ensure that everyone’s experience with new media is fair and beneficial, and that the different platforms available to us through the internet are used (for the most part) as they were intended (as tools and not weapons).
In the code, I use the term post quite often. I use it as a general term that encompasses all the ways in which we can publish something on the internet. This includes Facebook posts, blog posts, tweets, Instagram photos and captions, etc.
Truth and Accuracy:
· The utmost care should be given to publishing only the truth.
· Avoid posting something before you know it is true, unless you explicitly state the uncertainty.
· Give context for what you post when appropriate. (e.g. potentially controversial content)
· Promptly correct any errors in previous posts. Either go back and change the original or make a new post, noting that it is a correction of a previous post.
· Make it clear when you are stating an opinion and when you are reporting facts.
· Do not claim to be someone else or impersonate someone else on the internet/social media.
· If you make an anonymous or fictional person’s account, do not use it to spread false information or post harmful/insensitive content.
· Do not be deceitful in order to garner more readers or followers. For example, do not make false promises or leave out relevant information.
· Carefully consider the consequences of identifying a person by name in your post. Get permission when possible.
· Everything that is intentionally posted on the internet is now public, but be sure to attribute anything you choose to reproduce to its author/creator.
· Keep in mind that everything you post to the internet could be seen, taken and reproduced by anyone else. Deleting something does not guarantee that it is not still available to someone.
Defamation and Libel:
· Do not post something for the sole purpose of damaging another’s reputation.
· Do not publish information about an individual or group of individuals “behind their back”, i.e. without telling them and/or on a platform that prevents them from seeing it.
· Do not openly criticize, offend or shame an individual or group without carefully considering the consequences and effects it will have on the person/people you target.
· Do not use an anonymous or fake account to say hateful things or spread harmful information about other people, whether or not it is true.
Sensitive Language and Content:
· Obscenities should be used with caution in some cases. Consider who is in your audience and what the appropriate tone is for your post and/or platform.
· Provide a warning if you are posting sensitive material.
· Do not take credit for someone else’s work. Make it clear when you post someone else’s work that you are not responsible for it and give credit to the source (this includes automated/computer generated content).
· When quoting someone, do not change the wording within the quote, or change its context in a way that could provide your audience with misinformation.
Photo and Video Documentation:
· Do not secretly take photo/video of someone and publish it without their knowledge.
· Ask permission before taking their photo/video if possible.
· If posting a photo or video of someone, do not identify them by name unless you have their permission.
· Drones should only be used to capture images or footage on public property, unless explicit permission has been given to use them in private residences.
· Post graphic images/footage with caution. Provide a warning if possible.