We live in an era where Tweets are newsworthy and YouTube videos are verbatim. In minutes a picture can go viral and one’s personal information can published.
The Web has shattered all traditional walls of journalism bringing in a slew of new legal concerns. Ethic is now pertinent for everyone. With today’s grassroots media, information is prevalent and demanded, and can be easily altered.
In the Zeran v. America Online case a third party posted Kenneth Zeran’s phone number attributing him to the Oklahoma shooting[i]. Despite having no connection with the shooting Zeran’s phone was overloaded with hate messages. The court ruled that, while it was a third party’s posting, AOL was deemed liable for the information.
That was in 1997. According to an article in the British newspaper, The Independent, ethical and libel social media cases increased 300 percent, from 2013 to 2014.
In 2013 an optician company was sued by a British cricket player for libel. The company implied the player illegally tampered sports equipment through their Facebook and Twitter posts.
This case demonstrates that everyone is now a media content producer. Optician companies to famous models to CNN. With everyone being a journalist the needed for ethical conduct has only heightened.
The Society of Professional Journalists has a standard code of ethics many organizations and individuals have come to adopt: seek truth and report it; minimize harm; act independently and be accountable.
As you continue in the virtual world of social media remember: you have been given
keys to speak, rally and call out. You also have been given keys to slander, mistype or defame.
I recommend taking on The Society of Professional Journalist’s code of ethics as a personal standard; it is a standard that now applies to all of us.
[i] Rich, C. (2013). Writing and Reporting News. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.