PCC ruling suggests it is OK for journalists to use public Facebook pics where there is a good story involved


The PCC’s decision to reject a complaint after a local paper used someone’s photo and information from their Facebook page was a rare piece of good news for the media.

The commission ruled that the Farnham Herald did not breach the code when it published a story about a man who had been assaulted during a night out.

They used details of the incident, and an image showing his injuries, all sourced from his Facebook page.

But the Herald won the case because the victim had uploaded the image and information himself, and had left his Facebook settings on ‘Public’. So the paper was within its rights to use them. They verified the facts with the police.

The PCC noted the man had "unwittingly" confirmed his involvement in the incident and the extent of the injuries he suffered to the newspaper.

But the report was a straightforward account of a newsworthy incident, and was substantially corroborated by local police. The photograph had been used to illustrate his injuries and had not been taken out of context.

So the reminder to journalists is that it is likely to be safe to use photos and information from public people’s social media pages, without consent, when there’s a good story involved.

See PCC Guidelines on social media

See  adjudication

Cleland Thom is a consultant and trainer in media law

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