A publication of the World Editors Forum


Tue - 23.01.2018

Is Facebook a valid source of information?

Is Facebook a valid source of information?

Does 'plundering' information from Facebook raise similar ethical questions to phone-hacking? Glenda Cooper, a lecturer at London's City University, studied the ethical implications of journalists using information from Facebook without the users' permission, as reported by Press Gazette.

"What kind of journalism are we getting if every part of your life is only a mouseclick away from being splashed across the front page of a national paper?" Press Gazette quotes Cooper as saying. Clearly, taking information that has been made public online is very different to phone-hacking, which involves stealing private information, but it is still using information that was not provided for journalistic purposes.

As journalists frequently have less time to report, due to both financial pressures and the need to break stories online quickly, this kind of "short-cut journalism," using social media to find out about individuals, has increased, the study said.

One example is that "death knock" missions are becoming less common, Cooper said. Another Press Gazette article from February 14 reported on a study that found that personal visits from journalists following sudden deaths may be more welcome to families than relying on social media. A lack of attention on behalf of the press has left some families feeling as if the death of their loved ones had been ignored, found Jackie Newton, of Liverpool John Moores University, and Dr Sallyanne Duncan, of the University of Strathclyde.

This study suggested that the intense scrutiny on journalism prompted by the phone-hacking scandal could mean that reporters might be more likely to avoid talking directly to bereaved families.

Reporters quoted by Cooper say that it is dangerous to rely on Facebook, as it definitely can't give you as accurate a picture of a person as you would get from meeting them or their families. They also pointed out the difference between simply using a photo from a Facebook page and the danger of inferring things about a person from the nature of photos that they have, or from status updates and messages on their 'wall'.

As information made public on Facebook is, indeed, public, taking it into account cannot be faulted and is in fact probably sensible. However, it should never be a substitute for deeper investigation and, as with details from any source, should not be taken out of context.

Source: Press Gazette (1), (2)



Emma Goodman


2012-02-22 19:38

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

© 2015 WAN-IFRA - World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Footer Navigation