CODE OF ETHICS OF SOCIAL MEDIA PRACTICE IN BAYELSA STATE


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Social Media Practice in Bayelsa State
By: Idumange John
Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Bayelsa State on Research & Social Media

CODE OF ETHICS:
Introduction
Social media and blogs are important components of journalism. In fact it is a phenomenon that has assumed the momentum of a revolution in Journalism. They narrow the distance between journalists and the public. They encourage lively, immediate and spirited discussion. They can be vital news-gathering and news-delivery tools. It is assumed that most actors and bloggers are journalists who should uphold the same professional and ethical standards of fairness, accuracy, truthfulness, transparency and independence when using social media. Practitioners must always remember that social media postings live on as online archives. Correct and clarify mistakes, whether they are factual mistakes or mistakes of omission.

A media revolution on the social media sphere is transforming, fundamentally and irrevocably, the nature of journalism and its ethics. The implies to publish is now in the hands of citizens, while the internet encourages new forms of journalism that are interactive and immediate. Our media ecology is a chaotic landscape evolving at a furious pace. Professional journalists share the journalistic sphere with tweeters, bloggers, citizen journalists, and social media users.

CODES AND PRINCIPLES OF SOCIAL MEDIA PRACTICE

(1) OBJECTIVITY: The Social Media Constitutes a very dynamic aspect of the mass media .One the features of journalism Practice is objectivity-that is to report an event, or story based on facts and without bias. Objectivity means report the event or story as it is without fear or favour. Social Media Practitioners must be objective to avoid libel and its attendant legal challenges.

(2) STRATEGY: The Social Media is a dynamic enterprise that requires investigation, clarity, strategy. Every Social Media Practitioner should be trained to acquire investigation capabilities, research skills, technology of the media and a fairly good knowledge of how governmental institution work. Social Media actors should be able to define the purpose of posting a story or a report, or publishing news/opinion. Therefore defining the purpose is very critical to social media practice.

(3) ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS: Journalism at all levels and in all climes must take account of some ethical issues. Ethical commitment is necessary for all well-crafted and well-researched and responsible journalism. This is why Social Media Practitioners should avoid the use of vulgar languages; the dissemination of obscenity such as pornographic materials on face book, MySpace, YouTube. Google plus, and any other Social media Practitioner should not post or published pictures of people with sexually provocative dresses; nude pictures or sex related videos. Similarly, Social Media Practitioners are expected to be careful when culturally contemptuous issues and religiously sensitive matters are being reported. Recognizing the sensitive nature of religious, and culture, such matters should be reported with utmost caution. There are laws in the Nigeria Constitution that control and outlaw obscenity in order to uphold and maintain public morality. There is also a huge range of laws in media law and ethics that prevent snooping divulging of office secrets and pornography. Social Media Practitioners should also get themselves acquainted with literature on media law and ethics, plagiarism is also an offense. Bloggers should at all times cite authorities of such works/write-up and ideas are not original.

(4) GENUINENESS: Communication is like pouring out ones inner intentions. Social Media Practitioners and bloggers always speak their mind outline in matters of socio-economic and political importance. Some comments are usually made without verification, as some verses are borne out of political idiosyncrasies. This has become a huge challenge because there are no standard guidelines for bloggers and practitioners .Therefore if the intention of a social Media actor is not genuine soon; it degenerates into monumental errors not consistent with the principals of accuracy, verifiability and transparency.

(5) RUMOURS & UNCONFIRMED REPORTS: At no platform does rumour and unconfirmed reports spread like wild fire as in the Social Media. On the social media platform, spread puts pressure on bloggers to publish their stories, most often with half truths, and outright falsehood. False reports circulate the main media with incredible speed via Twitter, YouTube, Face book, blogs and cell phones. Even major news organizations too often pick up rumours online and spread them with amazing speed. Distorted reports and rumours causes panic, accidents and ultimately chaos. This is why Social Media actors to be meticulous, circumspect and very careful in reporting “live” events such as sports, accidents, braking stories and riots. We should ask question around a particular subject that is reported by a person who is anonymous. We must guard against the use of social media. Again rumours are more attractive because of the rapid decline in the leadership of mainstream media, as the newsroom has continued to shrink. Those who engage in entrepreneurial journalism tend to peddle rumours to score political points.

(6) ETHICS OF IMAGES: With sophisticated technology such as Photoshop, some bloggers manipulate images such as photographs, video clips via wireless technology .Social media actors and bloggers in the cyber space should be weary of capturing, manipulating or transmitting such materials. There are traditional principles of photojournalism that forbids the indiscriminate use of photos, images and videos. The deliberate manipulation of image or with a view to causing mischief, or to tarnish a person’s image or course disaffection or bring a person to disrepute is a crime and actionable in a court of law. This should be avoided.

Before you use a video or a photograph, you may pose questions like: What is the source of the video or photograph? Who wrote the comment and what was the motivation for posting it?. Does the source have the legal right to the material posted? Did that person take the photograph or capture the video? Has the photograph or video been manipulated? Have we checked to see if the metadata attached to the image reveals that it has been altered?

(7) ANONYMITY: Anonymity is accepted more readily online than in mainstream news media. Newspapers usually require the writers of letters to the editor to identify themselves. Codes of mainstream media ethics caution journalists to use anonymous sources sparingly and only if certain rules are followed. The codes warn journalists that people may use anonymity to take unfair or untrue “photo shots” at other people, for self-interest reasons. Online, many commentary and “chat” areas do not require anonymity. Online users resist demands from web site and blogs to register and identify them. Anonymity is praised as allowing freedom of speech and sometimes helping to expose wrong doing. Critics say it encourages irresponsible and harmful comments. Mainstream media contradict themselves when they allow anonymity online but refuse anonymity in their newspapers and broadcast programs.

8. TRUTH AND FAIRNESS: Social media comments essays and postings should meet the same standards of fairness, accuracy and attribution that you apply to your on-air or digital platforms. Information gleaned online should be confirmed just as you must confirm scanner traffic or phone tips before reporting them. If you cannot independently confirm critical information, reveal your sources; tell the public how you know what you know and what you cannot confirm. Don’t stop there. Keep seeking confirmation. This guideline is the same for covering breaking news on station websites as on the air. You should not leave the public “hanging.” Lead the public to completeness and understanding of whatever you are trying to buttress.

9. ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY: We should not write anonymously or use an avatar or username that cloaks your real identity on newsroom or personal websites. You are responsible for everything you say. Commenting or blogging anonymously compromises this core principle. Actors and practitioners are advised to be careful when you are writing, Tweeting or blogging about a topic that you or your newsroom covers. Editorializing about a topic or person can reveal your personal feelings. It therefore follows that Biased comments could be used in a court of law to demonstrate a predisposition, or even malicious intent, in a libel action against the news organization, even for an unrelated story. We need to be careful when registering for social network sites. Pay attention to how the public may interpret Facebook information that describes your relationship status, age, sexual preference and political or religious views.

Also keep in mind that when you join an online group, the public may perceive that you support that group. Be prepared to justify your membership. We should avoid posting photos or any other content on any website, blog, social network or idea/photo sharing website that might embarrass you or undermine your journalistic credibility. Bloggers and journalists who use social media often engage readers in a lively give-and-take of ideas. Never insult or disparage readers. Try to create a respectful, informed dialogue while avoiding personal attacks.

THE CODE OF ETHICS WILL BE ELABORATED AND PRINTED IN THE FORM OF A PAMPHLET TO SERVE AS A GUIDE TO SOCIAL MEDIA ACTORS & PRACTITIONERS IN BAYELSA STATE

Idumange John
SSA –Research & Social Media
References
Ess Charles (2009) Digital Media Ethics. Cambridge: Polity Press

Friend, Cecilia and Jane Singer (2007) Online Journalism Ethics: Traditions and Transitions. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe,

Henry Omoregie (2012) Discussions on May 2, 2012 at the Inauguration of Social Media Actors” Port Harcourt (Unpublished)

Ward, Stephen J. A. (2010) “Ethics for the New Mainstream. In The New Journalist: Roles, Skills, and Critical Thinking, eds. Paul Benedetti, Tim Currie and Kim Kierans, pp. 313-326. Toronto: Emond Montgomery Publications, 2010.

Ward, Stephen J. A. (2029) “Ethics for the New Investigative Newsroom

 

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