Social media ethics prompts lively conversation at #jiconf

The #jiconf at Gainesville, FL, played host to a lively discussion between academics David Craig, Steve Fox and Ginny Whitehouse and myself, Kelly Fincham. We debated current social media ethics and possible best practices for journalists. Topics included verification and privacy.


  1. Some basic principles

    This list is a work in progress based on thoughts from the panel, and it reflects a range of opinion from the panelists. We encourage everyone reading this to let us know your thoughts on what to add or change.

    Behind this discussion were the ethical principles of seeking truth and reporting it, acting independently and minimizing harm. These show up in the SPJ ethics code and the Poynter Institute guiding principles and in a long history of ethics scholarship. We think they are still relevant but need to be applied in new ways.

    Don’t be stupid.

    Assume that everything you post on a social network is public.

    Understand that retweets can and in many cases will be considered an endorsement.

    Don't retweet information you don't know to be true. If needed, report before retweeting.

    There's no excuse for passing along bad information. Ask yourself: What do I know?

    Verify information before sharing or RT-ing or ask audience to help verify.

    Attribute information to the original source.

    Always ask yourself, "Should you do it just because you can?"

  2. David Craig kicked off the conversation by asking Steve Fox to comment on Twittter's role in journalism.
  3. But is that enough? What does it mean to retweet? There is tension between saying "Somebody else reported this" and "Will somebody please check this out and see if it is accurate?"