IPSO Blog: Social media guidance

IPSO has released updated guidance for journalists and editors on how the Editors’ Code applies to information taken from social media

IPSO recognises that social media is a powerful tool for journalists. It has become a crucial way to gather news and increasingly comments, information and pictures taken from social media are used to illustrate stories or are the focus of stories themselves. However, information on social media can be misleading and difficult to verify.  

IPSO has produced non-binding guidance for editors and journalists which focuses on Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock), and Clause 6 (Children). The guidance is a framework for thinking through questions about using material from social media and includes examples of relevant case study decisions made by IPSO’s Complaints Committee. 

In utilising social media for journalism, is crucial that journalists take care around accuracy. The guidance explains some of the ways journalists can comply with Clause 1 (Accuracy), including taking care around non recent material and considering how any material will appear in different formats when it is posted. 

Privacy is also an important consideration. While many people may not necessarily expect their social media posts to end up in a newspaper or news website, something posted on social media without privacy settings is put into the public domain and can be seen by anyone, including journalists. Depending on the nature of the material, it could potentially be published. The guidance explores some of the key Code issues around Clause 2 (Privacy) that journalists need to think about when complying with the Code, including around the nature of any material, and the context of the story. It also looks at the additional privacy protections afforded to children under Clause 6. 

There may be occasions when editors and journalists use information from social media to illustrate stories which involve an individual’s personal grief or shock. Editors and journalists must take care in these circumstances to handle publication sensitively under Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock). The guidance includes key considerations journalists should make in these circumstances including around use of photographs. 

One of the new features of the updated guidance is a section explaining how corrections should be made on social media, using examples from decision’s made by IPSO’s Complaints Committee. A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected promptly and with due prominence, in order to meet the requirements of Clause 1 (ii). This applies to posts on publications’ social media platforms, as well as print and online articles. If a significant inaccuracy or misleading statement which was publicised on social media breaches the Code and a correction is required, then the correction must generally likewise be shared through the same channel. 

The guidance is available in IPSO’s new resources area, and can be directly accessed here. 

Published 22 April 2024