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More on Ethics in Social Media

by on February 6, 2013

For the assignment today, I ultimately decided that the ethics involved in social media use is one of the biggest problems journalists face today. I know there is already a post about social media, however I am coming from a different angle. Many of the Twitter accounts are “confirmed” to be who they say they are, but what is the confirmation process? Does that confirmation mean that person is actually tweeting, or simply that the tweets reflect their views and opinions? Is it ethical for a person of high social standing to pay someone else to tweet or post on Facebook as them? What about the ethics involved in companies monitoring their Facebook and twitter pages, and only allowing certain comments to be posted or shown? The ownerships lines on social media are so blurry that it is difficult to decide who has the right to post and where. This also leads me to think about the difficulty of fact-checking when it comes to social media. There are millions upon millions of people posting, the majority of which have never been trained in journalism, so how are we supposed to trust what they are saying is true? And if we can’t trust it, how do we find the time to fact-check everything that comes through social media?


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  1. I know that some celebrities take pride in running their own Twitters and Facebooks, saying it’s a way to keep “close to their fans”, while it is painfully obvious that some are just reflections of the person it is supposed to be. To their defense, these accounts are usually just for promotional purposes. With social media becoming more and more important in the marketing world by the day, I think it is only to be expected that people will be using it to maintain their image. If it is okay to have a publicist, someone who instructs you how to act to the media and while in the public eye, I don’t think having someone run your Twitter account is much worse.

    As far as companies go, I know it is a common tactic for the company have people that work for them go into product reviews and threads and plant a comment, giving their good/service a glowing review, telling others they should purchase it or planting something to influence readers and attempt to get a specific discussion going. I think that social media should be treated just as you should with most other things on the internet – you can’t believe everything you read. If you don’t trust the source as credible, you should probably take the information your reading with a grain of salt.

  2. It’s impossible to fact-check everything that everyone says on social media, which is why it is so important to regulate social media as journalists. Because social media is becoming overwhelmingly popular, I’m sure we will eventually limit the amount of space provided for content to be published and considered reliable. How we will do this, I’m not sure…but it definitely something to be considered. It’s true that you can’t believe everything you read online. But you should also be careful of the information that you share and create yourself to post online. Nowadays, information can be stored and shared so easily that it is dangerous. Journalists need to be especially careful of what they share online because their word is often times more trusted than say, a personal blogger. Most of what bloggers post is opinion, not fact, so yes it is obvious that we cannot trust everything we read online but at the same time, journalists need to be able to accurately take advantage of social media in order to spread the right information fast.

  3. While I think that social media can add an interesting layer to intellectual dialogues, I do not think that it could ever be viewed as a replacement for traditional sources of news. Social media is a good starting place to find and share stories, but it is then important to further investigate those stories and expand to outlets that are more reliable. It is similar to how you might use Wikipedia to gain background knowledge about a topic before expanding to more reliable (and Professor- approved) sources. While the information on Wikipedia is likely accurate and helpful, it is not enough, and it does not have the merits to stand on its own. Similarly, social media outlets might be good places to discover a story for the first time, but it is then your responsibility as a critical consumer to find other sources to corroborate that story.

  4. I agree that social media is unfortunately becoming a way that most people get their news. However, I think it is the job of a journalist to be present on twitter, facebook etc. so that users are able to sift through the junk and get to an actual reliable source. Twitter says that the reason that it verifies accounts is; “The verified badge helps users discover high-quality sources of information and trust that a legitimate source is authoring the account’s Tweets.” But is this “legitimate source” the actual user, or someone associated with them, we will never know. There are some sources where the tweet will actually mention who is writing it. For example, the president signs every tweet that is posted by him with a “-bo.” but this rarely happens. It is up to the user to decide and research the sources that they believe are telling the truth, because as we all know, there are a great number of lies on the internet. For example, there are rumors that celebrities have died almost monthly on the twitter-sphere. As for journalists, it should be an obligation for us to be honest with every tweet that is posted, but there are even more ethical issues that arise from this. Can we express our personal opinions in our tweets and by who we retweet? This blog outlines some of these issues and what we journalists can and cannot do with social media.

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