In a guidance note published on its website yesterday, the Independent Press Standards Organisation acknowledged that social media was changing the way journalists research and write stories.
The guidance urges editors to consider a series of key issues when using material from social media to ensure they stay on the right side of the Code.
They include the extent the information is in the public domain, the nature of the material, the importance of protecting children; and also whether it amounts to an intrusion into private grief.
Said IPSO: “Social media has revolutionised how individuals communicate and how they consume news, it is also changing how journalists research and write stories.
“This leads to questions from journalists and editors on how they can use information from social media, which IPSO addresses through this guidance.
The guidance contains a series of relevant case studies about IPSO cases which involved the use of social media material.
For instance, in one case, the Lancashire Evening Post was cleared of using pictures from a suicide victim’s Facebook page because the page had no privacy settings on it and the pictures were not “explicit or embarrassing.”
Commenting on the guidance, IPSO’s head of standards Charlotte Urwin said: “IPSO is regularly contacted by editors and journalists seeking advice on how the Editors’ Code of Practice applies to the use of material taken from social media.
“Generally, journalists and editors ask whether a particular piece of information, often a photograph, taken from a social media site can be republished without breaching the Code.
“This guidance provides editors and journalists with a framework for thinking through these questions and some examples of relevant decisions by IPSO’s Complaints Committee.
“We hope it will be used by editors and journalists at all our 2,500 online and printed publications and we will produce public-facing information on this topic in the autumn.”