Code of Ethics: Social Media

The twenty-first century gave rise to many new modernities that were completely unknown to the past. Media outlets morphed to fit these new technologies and new mentalities, giving rise to the popular term of “new media”. The term of “new media” refers to the mass communication connecting the entire world through the use of mobile and digital devices, the Internet and social media. New media has allowed for information to travel at speeds that had never been seen before, and as a result an interactive community of active members rose within a short period of time. This new community that new media was able to give life to a new type of interaction between people and how they relate to the world. The people formerly known as the audience have the power to control the information that was being put into the world, including news and entertainment. Many questions also arose with the rise of new media, including that of ethical stand grounds which greatly differed from those previously set by the so-called “old media”. These questions specifically started concerning people that it did not before, as the responsibility of the information being fed into the world no longer rested just in the hands of professionals, but rather now rested in the hands of the world itself. Social media has become one of the main ways to distribute news as many people have free access to it and are able to post whatever they please of these sites. As a consequence, ethical concerns have risen due to false information being distributed, causing unnecessary chaos, and the invasion of privacy — all major issues (but not limited to these) that concern every social media user and reader. The code of ethics listed below corresponds to all social media outlets that have an impact on the way that people find and distribute news, and essentially concerns anybody who is a consumer of these.

Privacy

  • Invasion of privacy
  • Social media and the technology that comes with it has allowed for the invasion of privacy to become very tangible and easy. Smart phones have allowed anybody who owns one to quickly snap a picture or record an event without much effort. Due to this, it is important for there to be ethical guidelines concerning the threshold of until where this invasion of privacy is acceptable. Below is the code of ethics for specific situations, in which invasion of privacy might be concerned.
  • Interviews
  • The participant of the interview should be informed explicitly of how the interview is being recorded and how it is being presented to the audience. The interviewee should also be made aware of the type of audience that that specific social media is reaching out to. Questions should be appropriate to the type of platform and the person that is being interviewed. If the person being interviewed feels uncomfortable or wants to be “off the record”, they should be respected and should not be recorded or published without their explicit permission. Information given out during an interview should be verified before publishing in any way or form in order to avoid false allegations or libel.
  • Interviews are allowed to be reused for various social media outlets, yet these should always come with permission, as mentioned above. Interviews must also not be reworded or altered for other purposes.
  • Quotes
  • Quotes given by people on or off the record should not be altered in anyway, and in most cases, the social media outlet is responsible for asking for permission to use these quotes. If quotes are given in a public speech or as such, it is okay to publish the quotes without verification from the person who spoke the quote.
  • Quotes must be attributed to the person who said it, along with the setting and the date if necessary.
  • Pictures/Videos
  • Pictures or videos taken to publish on social media outlets should not be taken with the purpose to invade privacy or expose a person in a vulnerable place or state. Pictures should be taken in respect to a certain situation. Examples given below:
  • In situations like an international or local crisis, where the picture or video will be able to do more right than wrong in terms to a person’s reputation, it is in the publisher’s hands to decide whether it is correct to do so.
  • In a situation where a person is being exposed doing something harmful to their overall public reputation, the publisher should consider the consequences. However, in this code of ethics, it is recommended that if the person being exposed is a public figure, and what he/she is doing is harmful to others (for example, doing racist or homophobic acts), he/she should be exposed.
  • If a person is exposed through social media, there should be a complete story where readers of the publication can go back to and understand the back story and why this exposure was necessary.
  • Telephone calls
  • Telephone calls should not be recorded or exposed on social media unless there is some kind of consent from both of the people participating in the call.
  • Recorded telephone calls should be used in their entirety, and should not be edited to transform or alter a situation. This must be in sensible terms, and should be revised by a team before it is published.
  • Like in the point made above about pictures and videos, if a recorded telephone call is used to expose somebody, the person responsible for the exposure should consider all types of consequences.
  • Graphic content
  • Graphic content, such as graphic images or videos, sexual content, or violent scenarios, should be allowed on the social media sites as long as the following is considered:
  • There must be a warning made by the publisher as well as the social media platform, warning the audience of this graphic content, and of possible triggers, if necessary.
  • There must be a general permission for graphic content to be published, such as war images. There must also be a personal permission if the content concerns a single or group of people in graphic contents.

Transparency

  • False rumors
  • The social media platform where false rumors are being spread or magnified should be able to address these in a timely manner, as well as clear up any mistakes due to misleading information.
  • False rumors that could potentially lead misrepresentation of a person or event, harm somebody’s public reputation, or cause unnecessary chaos or panic, the social media platform has the responsibility to clear these rumors up, and give verifiable true information.
  • Information and Quotes
  • Information and quotes must always be able to be traced back to a single trusted and verifiable source.
  • See Fact-checking and Information and Sourcing sections below.
  • Fact-checking and Information
  • Information displayed on the social media site should be able to be verifiable by a trusted source, and should be able to be linked to these trusted sources immediately.
  • News stories, images, videos and recordings among many other content allowed on social media platform is expected to be accurate and of a true-nature. If this is not the case, the social media platform should put an end to that specific post/publication.
  • Sourcing
  • Common and general knowledge do not have to be sourced or linked back to a trusted source.
  • When new information, news, images or any type of content is put out onto the social media platform, this information must be sourced, and it is the responsibility of the social media platform to provide users an easy way to source their content.
  • If videos or pictures are manipulated in order to create a GIF, meme, or mashed-up YouTube video, there should correct sourcing that direct back to the original content or publisher.