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As the world becomes increasingly global and interconnected, there is a need for journalists to report news as they occur in different parts of the world. Consequently, journalists have had to use other sources of information such as social media. Given the real time aspect of social media and the amount of data that is posted, it has become one of the most important sources of information to the extent of giving the mainstream sources of information a lot of competition. Journalists have come to realize the importance of social media and have thus embraced it. There is, however, ethical issues relating to the use of these sources. Some of the issues that have arisen include privacy and copyright of the data obtained from these sources. This essay discusses issues surrounding the use of personal pictures by social media for publication by the press.
In the Middle East, especially in the UAE, social media has become as popular as a source of information and entertainment (Bryfonski, 2012). Today, ordinary people are able to capture events using their mobile phones. At the same time, social media has resulted to privacy issues when one posts images of themselves on the Internet. There have been a lot of debates on when one can use pictures that are posted in social media and publish them in newspapers. There have been several cases where journalists have found themselves in trouble for such acts, to the extent of suffering legal suits. While others have been found without any wrong done in such cases, therefore, questions of ethics in their work have always been raised.
Due to this raging debate, there have been guidelines concerning the use of photos from online media sources. Such guidelines include the BBCrsquo;s guidelines on social media and the Reuters Handbook of Journalism. In fact, these guidelines offer a comprehensive analysis on when it is most appropriate to use social media pictures and when it is not.
The Social Media and the Copy Right Law
When a person shoots a picture and posts it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube, they retain the copyrights of that work. Other journalists have no right to freely use pictures for their own publication. This would amount to breaking copyright laws. Therefore, if a person wants to publish such pictures, the first thing that should be done is asking for permission of the original rights owner (Dewing, 2010). This is because a creator of the image retains the copyright and thus, other journalists should give credit to the originator and if payment is required, they should comply too.
Since journalists have come to realize this fact, some have resulted to citing social media as a source of their published information so as not to break copyright laws. There has been much debate about the appropriateness of this method. Most media experts have come to question this technique of citation.
However, journalists have always been tempted to use social media information without permission of the information creator. This happens because 95% of the cases where media breaches the copyright laws in this manner go unnoticed (Dewing, 2010). Nevertheless, people in the UAE are becoming more aware of the need to protect their intellectual properties. They may, therefore, charge for the usage of such pictures and videos. Thus, journalists must become more cautious. Just because a person won’t get caught and others are doing it, does not mean it is right (Mandiberg, 2012).
Apart from copyright issues, there are other ethical and moral aspects of using pictures from social media that should be considered by journalists as they undertake their work. First and foremost, the privacy of a person who is in the picture should be considered. If a journalist is covering a story on a certain person and uses their Facebook or Twitter photos, that person might be invading the privacy of the owner of the picture. This is more so when the picture is meant for a small group of people rather than the mass (Diakopoulos, De Choudhury, & Naaman, 2012, pp. 2451-2460).
In case journalists want to use pictures of a person from social media, they should seek permission in order to avoid privacy intrusion. At the same time, they should check the privacy settings of the account that they are taking the information from. If the privacy settings indicate that the content or images are for public viewing, publishing them will not be considered as privacy intrusion (Dewing, 2010). On the other hand, if the profile settings indicate that pictures are meant for a small group of people, caution should be exercised.
Besides, another consideration to be made is the effect of using family pictures and friends of a person concerned. Usage of pictures or videos should not cause stress to people who are close to persons in the images (Mandiberg, 2012). This should be considered especially when reporting on murder or human rights abuse cases and using the pictures of a victim. At the same time, such pictures should not cause panic and fear to their creator. If a person took picture on a crime scene, a creator should not be exposed, since that might cause fear of retaliation from the culprits of crime.
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