Press regulator IPSO has urged journalists to check social media users’ privacy settings before taking photographs and other material from social media.
It says journalists should consider the copyright of such material but does not offer any guidance on this point.
IPSO said journalists should take a screenshot of the privacy settings if possible when using material from social media and make a note of any discussions around the public interest.
The regulator said journalists should consider pixelating or removing individuals from photos if they are not relevant to the story.
In general, it said, material taken from social media when no privacy settings are in place and which does not depict anything private is unlikely to result in a breach of the Editors’ Code.
IPSO notes that “all individuals are entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, health and correspondence” and that any publication of private information will need to be justified as being in the public interest.
Any coverage of children under 16 on social media must be “contemplated with extreme caution” if it involves their “personal circumstances”. And journalists are asked to bear in mind that some children may lie about their age on social media.
When it comes to mining social media for information related to people in the news who have died, IPSO warns that the following information could be a breach of the Editors’ Code:
- Mocking or ridiculing the deceased or the manner of their death
- photos which show the deceased engaged in embarrassing activity
- gory information at a time of grief.
It also warns that care should be take when publishing information on social media so that those caught up in events are not identified before their families are made aware of what is happening.