UK Press To Create Guidelines About Using Social Networking Info In News Stories

from the public-info-is-public dept

You may have noticed lately that whenever a story breaks about a young person doing something bad (say, shooting up a school or losing a bank billions of dollars), one of the first things the press does is rush to MySpace, Facebook or other social networks to see what they can learn about the person in question. Apparently, that's ticking off some of the people whose profile info is being used. Thus, a media industry watchdog in the UK is trying to come up with guidelines for the use of such info. This seems a little odd, of course. The info you put on your public profile is just that: public. So getting upset that it's being used in the press seems a bit questionable. Instead of setting guidelines for the media, why not just remind people that public info is public?

Reader Comments (rss)

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  1. identicon
    Le Blue Dude, Mar 4th, 2008 @ 11:11pm


    They're sick and tired of 'myspace was bad because this sociopath used it'

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 12:00am

    You're looking at it the wrong way...

    I'd say it's more to do with the fact that info garnered from myspace/facebook/whatever is pretty much irrelevant when it comes to the media. If, say, a guy DID shoot up his school (which never happens in the UK anyway, but whatever), and it turns out that he's been making death threats via myspace, or that he's been claiming he's going to do it etc... then that info will be released via police means anyway. Throwing "and this was found on his myspace profile" just implies that myspace is somehow bad to the ignorant / internet-unsavvy populace.

    This may even be a response from the media similar to the response from universities/colleges about the use of online resources (there are fairly strict guidelines about the use of information found via, say, google and wikipedia, which usually boils down to "don't use them"). They can be heavily biased, completely false, and they can lead to lazy habits in the researcher. All of which are bad for journalism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Away in a manger, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 12:05am

    Read the article, they agree with you.

    The debate is about ensuring that the press publish news that is in the public interest as against news that is of interest to the public.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Le Blue Dude, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 12:06am

    Re: You're looking at it the wrong way...

    I'd disagree with your statement about online research. If you're prepared to do the work, they can be highly balanced, a source of complete truth, and can lead to a good work ethic and research ethic where you make sure to back everything up with multiple sources and, even more importantly READ BETWEEN THE LINES. Online research is a good thing.

    On the other hand off line sources tend to be highly biased, and often completely false (White house briefs anyone). To make matters worse they encourage lazy research habits because it's harder to collect a lot of data to correlate, and there's some encouragement to use just a single source (Because there are fewer sources)

    Interesting that we both shout about the other's methods for the same reason. How about we compromise and say that lazy researching is lazy stupid and foolish?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Douglas Gresham, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 1:24am

    Re: You're looking at it the wrong way...

    "If, say, a guy DID shoot up his school (which never happens in the UK anyway, but whatever)"
    I take it you've never heard of Dunblane, then. School shootings may have become pretty much synonymous with the US, but don't think it doesn't happen elsewhere. I agree with the rest of the points, though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    SteveD, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 2:19am

    Fueled by suicide

    Just to fill in some of the background of this case, it kicked off after a string of teenager suicides in a small Welsh community.

    The parents of these children were getting very distressed about the media coverage of the suicides, as English newspapers were running front-page stories with pictures and details that the families had not released to them. When it was revealed that this info had been lifted off the children’s social networking sites the parents became highly critical of the newspapers, blaming them for glamorising the suicides by giving it such heavy coverage (which is ironic as up until now the papers had been blaming the social networking sites for causing the same thing).

    So the twist in this case is that although the info was published publicly and therefore in the public domain, the people who did so are dead. The parents believe they should have some control over the personal details of their dead children, and while this is an argument likely fuelled by grief more then rationality it still strikes a chord with a lot of other parents across the land who are worried about what their children are posting on the internet.

    My own view is that this is something of a generation gap issue, where parents and children view publicly posting information about themselves in different ways. For example, one fellow on the news a while back was talking about his experiences escaping Eastern Germany and his horror at the way kids were posting information against themselves online. Didn’t they know that databases of public information like this could be used as a horrific tool by dictators? An advocate of Social Networking then put to him that the best way to avoid such dictators was for the public to hold control of communication channels like the internet, and prevent government regulation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 6:32am

    So the UK is all concerned about the privacy of folks that shoot up schools? Nice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Ruth, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 6:56am

    Private vs Public

    "This seems a little odd, of course. The info you put on
    your public profile is just that: public"

    Totally agree with you. Just wondering:
    If the profile is not set to public but to private, I assume local authorities like the police can go through 'facebook' or 'myspace' to get access to the private profile.

    Since the profile is set to private I wonder if the law changes, the info deemed private and it is then illegal to share.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    nipseyrussell, Mar 5th, 2008 @ 9:27am

    re "private vs public"
    well, i dont use these services so i cant comment on what technology separates a public from a private profile, but i really dont think that you can consider a "private" profile designation a reasonable barrier to preventing that information from spreading. it just limits the info to those other people you designate, but they easily can redistribute the info. thus, i think there is no difference

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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