IPSO Blog: What should journalists think about when using information taken from social media?

Head of Standards Charlotte Urwin on IPSO's new social media guidance, how social media has revolutionised how individuals consume news, and how journalists research and write stories.

We regularly answer questions from journalists and editors on how they can use information from social media whilst also complying with the Editors’ Code. Recognising that social media is an important part of newsgathering, and that this is an ongoing area of concern for journalists, we published guidance on this topic to help to answer those questions.

When I started producing the guidance, I thought that the answers to these questions would be reasonably straightforward. In fact, as the guidance developed it became clear that in many cases the issue is not as simple as I had expected.

If a journalist uses information an individual posts on social media when no privacy settings are in place and the information does not depict anything private, IPSO is unlikely to decide there has been a breach of the Code. However, journalists must not assume that the absence of privacy settings means that information can be published. The nature of the material, the context of the story and what the material features, must also be considered. Our guidance explores these issues in more detail.

Guidance can only be helpful if it addresses the concerns of its target audience. I’d like to extend my thanks to all editors and journalists who commented on the guidance as it was in development, as they have made it clearer and more focussed.

We’ve published the guidance on IPSO’s website for everyone to look at. We’re going to be supplementing the guidance with some information for the public on the same topic, as we know that there is general interest in the use of information taken from social media.

If you have any comments on the guidance, or suggestions of topics IPSO could look at in the future, please get in touch by emailing charlotte.urwin@ipso.co.uk