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has become an integral part of the contemporary
journalism, both in terms of finding and dissemination of
information. The following recommendations are based on the
editorial documents of international media, press council codes,
and aims at assisting journalists so that they are able to observe
in the performance of their professional duties the principles of
impartiality and confidence through the use social media. The
recommendations contained within the document are of general
nature, meaning that concrete details should be agreed and
regulated in compliance with the editorial policies of media
outlets themselves. General
- Personal account of social network may be used by the
journalist both for private and professional purposes.
- In using the social media the journalist is also liable to
observe ethical and professional standards, the way it happens in
the real environment.
- Usage of information spread via social network is granted,
however, verification is required, due to the simplicity of
spreading false information online.
- The imposition of regulations by an editorial office to its
journalists with respect to the use of social media should carry a
balance between the freedom of expression and ensuring the
confidence of the audience. To that end it’s necessary that in the
beginning of the working relations the journalist received concrete
recommendations by the editorial board as to his/her conduct in
social media, as well as the consequences of violating those
Social networks have become an important source of information.
Public figures and organizations often spread initial information
through social networks. Falsification in the virtual space has now
become still simpler. In the exchange of information, a great deal
of nuances can be lost. There have been many cases of spreading
information on behalf of a certain person from fake accounts, which
has also become a challenge for the contemporary media. Therefore,
journalists have to learn how to use new tools for verification of
information. The Supreme Court of Georgia has designated Facebook
as public space in one of its decisions. Accordingly, receiving
information from a social network, as well as using of the given
platform as a source, is not an issue, yet it’s the journalist’s
responsibility to assess the information value of news published on
a social network, and whether it’s possible to contact the author
for the specification of details.
"Public dissemination within the context of "freedom of
expression" doesn’t solely imply voicing of information only
through the press and television, especially in conditions when the
role of social media, blogging, and micro-blogging in the life of
the contemporary society is ever more significant. Any instrument
that can be used for providing information to an unlimited number
of people, should be evaluated as source of public dissemination…
In this respect, Facebook is one of the world’s major and most
popular social network, uniting millions of users around the globe.
Information spread by a concrete user on Facebook becomes available
for that person’s friends, or all users, as per the author’s will.
Any users having access to information can share it with his/her
contacts, or an unlimited number of people, as well as citing it in
a private conversation, press or online editions. Thus considering
these very qualities of a social network, open publication of
status or comment by a concrete user should be considered as public
dissemination of information". The ruling of the Georgian Supreme
Court from Jan 9, 2014 (1559-1462-2012)
- Information obtained from a social network should go through
all the filters of verification of news obtained otherwise.
- Journalist should be extremely cautious with using information
concerning privacy published on a social network.
- If journalist is unable to verify the authenticity of
information, then he/she should inform the audience of this. Part
of editorial codes suggest journalists not stop at the stage of
information verification, and inform the society on the outcome-
whether or not the information has been confirmed.
- Verification of information sources in social networks may be
difficult, yet the journalist should exert every effort in order to
accomplish the process.
- Journalist should also discreetly approach the verification of
fake accounts. The majority of popular people use special marker on
their social network pages to prove the authenticity. There,
however, have been cases when even Twitter got deceived, and false
accounts were marked. It’s necessary, therefore, that journalist
him/herself conducted the verification. In case of doubt inform
- When using outside link in a material, journalist should be
confident in its credibility (we think before we link ).
- When using in a journalistic product photo/video published in a
social network , it’s advisable that the journalist identify the
holder of copyright, and ask seek permission of that person.
- Often, photo taken quite a while ago is spread via social
networks as a new, which may become a ground for
manipulation-something to be avoided by the media.
- Journalist should not resort to any means of accessing other
person’s account, even when dealing with a private correspondence
published in public space. Prior to the publication of such
material the journalist should try to ascertain its authenticity
with the interlocutor’s of the conversation, and if that hasn’t
been achieved, inform the audience regarding for that matter.
- The journalist should prior to the beginning of the
conversation warn the respondent that his/her responses will be
- Journalist or a media outlet is entitled to appeal to the
reader via social network to express his/her viewpoint on certain
issue, as well as ask the photo/video material describing the
event. The reader shouldn’t be asked to send the material from a
location being in which could be dangerous for that person.
- When a journalist contacts a source through social network, or
uses a social network for the professional purposes, it’s important
that he/she be openly represented as a journalist associated with a
certain media outlet.
In 2015, Associated Press and CNN got mislead by
citizen Marie Parker, after she reported on her twitter having
witnessed shooting in San-Bernardino, and associating the shooter
with a certain organization. Mary Parker stated: "When the shooting
occurred and made its way to the news, I tweeted saying how I was
in hiding at the shooting and I had gotten a glimpse of what
happened. Immediately a bunch of reporters kept following and dming
[direct messaging] me asking me if I wanted to be interviewed… I
didn’t get to say anything I wanted but it was still pretty amazing
how I somehow made my way on the broadcast.
Questions for Newsroom:
- Who’s the author of the photo/video/text? What was a motivation
- Shot by the author him/herself, or uses the footage of
- Does he/she hold a right to publish?
- What does the metadata of the photo says?
- Are there other sources of receiving information?
- The value of information provided by the user?
- Presence of agreed set of procedures for a journalist to comply
with in a social network (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube , etc )for the
verification of photo/video material?
- Posting in social networks, whether marked as private or
public, is considered an information made in public space.
- Any type of personal information, post, or comment, may be
associated with mediacompany where user journalist works.
Therefore, a journalist is advised to handle with discretion the
information which he/she posts in a social network, especially the
information concerning the topics he himself or his company is
- Publication of posts reflecting political views, sympathies or
antipathies may call the journalist’s impartiality in question and
impair confidence towards him/her.
- Explicit support of an information or other type of campaign in
a social network may call in question the credibility towards
- Generaly, a journalist is entitled to have privacy in the
web-space, so the best option in this case would be to use special
functions of social pages, including filters, so as to easily
define the circle of people to share information to. Also, it’s
important that a journalist constantly kept in mind him/her being
representative of a media company.
In 2014 British Press Complaint Commission confirmed
violation of ethical standard by a journalist that, according to
the complainant, had harassed him via Facebook. The fact of the
matter was that the complainant had emailed the news editor
expressing his disappointment that she had not published several
letters that he had written to the newspaper. Editor dedicated
several posts to the given fact for instance, "I plan to make his
life a misery as much as possible" The newspaper denied breaching
the Code, stressed that the comments had been made on her personal
Facebook account, which had privacy settings. In addition, The news
editor had been on compassionate leave when she received the
complainant’s email. The Commission confirmed violation of
Clause 4 (harassment) and stressed that it applies to
all professional conduct by journalists, including on social media
Questions for Newsroom:
- Is a journalist informed beforehand of the limitations on
expression set by the his/her company in social networks?
- Are journalists allowed to create blogs?
- What kind of responsibility may a journalist be imposed in the
case of violation?
- Who makes decision regarding the imposition of
- Adding sources of potential information as friends on Facebook,
or "following" on Twitter is not a violation of professional
standard. However, in the case of adding only one or a few
politicians, as well as election candidates, as friends may give
the user an impression that the journalist has a positive attitude
towards a certain politician. Therefore, a journalist should try to
be at "friends" with more or less the total spectrum of election
candidates or participants of a political process in a social
network. Furthermore, a significant number of media outlets advise
their journalists to refrain from commenting on pages of
politicians and involving in certain types of discussion.
- The Journalist is not restricted in terms of "liking" pages of
various companies, politicians, or agencies, and can too become a
member of their closed groups. Yet the journalist should always
remember that the sole purpose of his/her participation in those
groups should only be reception of information from those sources,
and not participation in discussions.
Questions for newsroom:
- Information spread by a media outlet’s official page in social
network is regarded as the product of media outlet which is subject
to all the journalistic standards applied to the general media
product. The given practice is exercised by the Georgian Charter of
Journalistic Ethics and the press councils of many European
- Correction/removal of information by a media outlet should be
followed by the official page. For instance, if the photo has been
replaced while the old version remains in a social network, then it
should as well be removed and replaced by the new one. Similarly,
correction of a text in a journalistic product requires correction
of the material spread earlier and containing the old version of
- The same rule applies in the case of a link carrying incorrect
information, which should be corrected as well.
- If after correction of information on the webpage the
information in question still persists in a social network with the
old photo or title, then the link itself is subject to correction
and subsequent re-upload.
- Is there a single standard as to the correction of a material
spread on behalf of a media outlet via social network?
- What’s the procedure of correction? Is the audience informed
regarding the publication of false information? Or it’s only
possible to read the new information after editing of the old
Associated Press - Social Media Guidelines for AP
SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDANCE FOR STAFF
Radio Television Digital News Association - Guidelines for
Social Media and Blogging
NPR Ethics Handbook - Social media
The Canadian Association of Journalists