A social media ethics code you can support



If you’re a journalist and you use social media, you’ll want to read this.  And if you work for a news organization — from student media on up to the top markets, you’ll want to read this, too.

According to the Online News Assocation website, “The ONA Social Newsgathering Ethics Code is a document that is intended to gather the support of news and journalism organizations of all sizes around the globe to endorse a set of standards and practices relating to the gathering and use of content created by members of the public.”

Here’s an abbreviated list of the standards and practices:

  • Endeavor to verify the authenticity of user-generated content before publishing or distributing it, and be transparent with the audience about the verification status of user-generated content (UGC).
  • Consider the the emotional state and safety of contributors, including the risk inherent in asking a contributor to produce and deliver UGC and how you might technically ensure anonymity of sources when required.
  • Seek informed consent for the use of UGC through direct communication with the individual who created it and be transparent about how content will be used and distributed to other platforms.
  • Give due credit to the owner of the content providing that consideration has been given to potential consequences, including their physical, mental and reputational well-being.

Two more elements of the code involve helping journalists understand the potential dangers involved with engaging sources through social media and helping journalists cope with graphic/disturbing content.

ONA welcomes news organizations that want to be listed as a supporters of the code, if they send an email with the organization’s name to socialnewsgathering@journalists.org.

This new code is a good conversation starter for any newsroom or any classroom.