Kiwi newspaper ‘discovers’ Facebook photos: “Ethics? What dilemma?”

July 25, 2010

Sunday News this week uncovered photos on 32-year-old [Carmen] Thomas’s Facebook page showing her playfully pecking the cheek of All Blacks midfield sensation Ma’a Nonu and embracing wing Anthony Tuitavake.

[Bunting, 25 July, Sunday News]

Gosh, I’m absolutely stunned with awe; marvelling at the forensic abilities of the Sunday News. How devastatingly newsworthy…the paper’s found out that a missing woman has been seen in a bar with two footballers.

Stunning stuff, let’s hope the police are as astute as Sunday News and are right now questioning the two players. They may know something about Carmen Thomas’ disappearance.

The headline suggest this momentous event has just happened and Carmen hasn’t been seen for about three weeks:

Missing mum poses with All Blacks

And isn’t it fantastic that there’s been a sighting of her, after all her anxious friends, her employer, her mother  and her child are beside themselves with worry.

“Oh, what’s that?” Hang on, check the details…Why? What’s wrong with this picture?

It’s not known when or where the photos were taken but the social networking site has recorded them as being uploaded on September 22, 2008.

Fuck me, the photos are nearly two years old.

Why is this newsworthy? Why is this in the paper?

Oh yeah, right, the All Blacks’ connection. We get to this point a few pars into the non-story. In an attempt to ‘keep it real’ the reporter valiantly attempts to link the All Blacks to the police investigation:

Investigation head, Mark Benefield, was reluctant to comment on Thomas’ online photos but confirmed police were “aware” of them, and that “there are several photographs of her on it [Facebook] in the company of people from all walks of life”.

“As far as we know at this stage of the investigation, there is nothing sinister in any of the photographs posted by Carmen on her pages,” Benefield said. The acting detective inspector wouldn’t say whether police had contacted the rugby stars.

Finbarr, mate, you are flogging a dead horse here. You’ve squeezed all the juice out of this particular lemon and there’s no more blood in this stone.

If I was Benefield I’d be reluctant too; knowing that whatever I said was going to be quoted at length in a cheesey hole-filler, arm-wrestled into the raggiest rag in the land.

What a tasteless, low-rent and ultimately meaningless bit of reporting.

And what investigative skills.

The Facebook photos are only visible to Thomas’ friends and their friends.

Not any more they’re not. Thanks to Sunday News we can all perv at them.

I’ve written before about gratuitous invasions of Facebook privacy by gawking media vultures. This is a classic case of reducing a person to the sum of their parts. I have no doubt that if there had been any ‘racier’ images, the Sunday News would have had no qualms about publishing them.

And let’s be clear, every newspaper in the country would do it too.

This is a wild-west frontier in journalism ethics and at the moment everyone’s behaving like a drunken cowboy in a saloon.

It’s not good enough. It is time for news organisations to establish some ethical and fair use guidelines around the plundering of Facebook for images and story leads.

There are legitimate reasons why journalists should be using social media tools to enhance their reporting; but sitting on your arse in the office downloading what is really someone else’s private property is not one of them. There are copyright issues here – is it stealing?

And of course it would seem that these egregious breaches of privacy can be overlooked because all you’re doing is exploiting some other numbnuck’s inability to operate the complex technical settings on Facebook.

Let’s be clear: what you’re doing is not journalism.

There is no pubic interest in publishing two-year old photos of Carmen Thomas with a couple of footy players; all it does is satisfy the ego of a couple of hacks without conscience.

It makes me sick.

The reporter doesn’t say how he got access to Ms Thomas’ private photos, but I guess it doesn’t matter does it. Whatever privacy settings you have on your Facebook page, to the news media goon squad it’s all public property and access is just a click away.

After all, if you’re too stupid to stop us, too fucken bad, we’re coming; guns blazing and whiskey-stained breath on your neck.


“Sorry” is indeed the hardest word: Facebook faux pas leads to apology

March 6, 2009

A number of British news organisations have been forced to apologise and pay damages to a woman after wrongly reporting that her daughter’s 16th birthday got out of hand because people turned up to her house after the event was promoted on the girls’ Facebook page.

As Nelson would say: “Ha ha!”

The case was covered in the Guardian a few days ago:

David Price, of London law firm David Price Solicitors and Advocates, told Judge Charles Gray at the high court in London today that Amanda Hudson had been “extremely shocked and distressed” by the false picture that had been painted of her daughter Jodie’s birthday party in Marbella, Spain.

Allegations that the party had got out of hand first appeared across the national and international press in May last year, with claims that the house in Marbella had been “trashed” or “destroyed” by gatecrashers.

However, Price told the high court today that “only very minor damage was caused” and that Jodie had promoted the party on social networking website Bebo – not Facebook. [Oliver Luft, Newspapers sorry for 'Facebook party' story]

I’ve been concerned for some time about journalists free and easy use of Facebook as  a source, but it seems that in this case the news media concerned didn’t even do any basic fact-checking. It supports my argument that using Facebook is basically a lazy way to get a story, particularly if you’re just taking stuff from the site, or not checking when someone tells you something was “on Facebook”.

If we’re going to use social networks as a journalistic tool, I think we need to have a much more rigorous debate about it. Not just assume that the technology “can” and therefore we “should”.

Read the rest of this entry »


Facebook vigilantes “just can’t get enough”

February 18, 2009

The Witches of Facebook [so you can read background]

This is now something of a casebook social phenomenon. The Facebook vigilante groups calling for lynch mob style revenge for suspected Victorian arsonist B****** S****** are spreading like, well…actually like “wildfire”. The most prominent has gone underground, but several others have sprung up.

It makes me wonder what the Facebook moderators and the Victorian police are doing about this. Meanwhile the vicious and ignorant hate continues to dribble forth.

Burn the motherf***** like he did to all those innocent people. Jail is too good for the c*** [my edits]

The pro-lynching groups are now also claiming to be victims of an anti-free-speech brigade. It’s beyond laughable, it’s a sad indictment of the whole social networking idea. This is an example of the level of debate and discussion this is throwing up (literally)

Why do people want to protect that low life peaice of shit???..To hell with what authorities say about facebook groups on that freak not being aloud…cos we will anyway..if not on facebook else where. Its spose to be a flamming free country where freedom of speach is a high priority…. so c’mon ppl join this group im 100% in favour of it myself!!!

Personally I blame reality TV and the edumukashun system.

I see this as fairly clear evidence that we’re dumbing down public debate. I think it’s refreshingly democratic that “everyone” can join in on Facebook and I admire those hardy souls who take it upon themselves to intervene in these sick discussion lists with vigour, honesty and some humour, but really what are they trying to do?

It would seem to me almost impossible to think that getting involved in a slanging match with prejudiced and ill-educated dribblejaws is going to change anyone’s mind. All that happens in these groups is that like-minded people reinforce each other’s ignorance and find solidarity for their views.

Social networks like Facebook are not the new public sphere. They are not fora for informed debate on issues of public importance. Unfortunately, for many Facebookers it is the only media they engage in on any serious level. The interactivity is great, but the intellectual level is way down.

It’s the evil egging on the ignorant.

One line I did notice though that I think needs more attention is the way in which Kevin Rudd’s ill-considered comments about the suspected arson in Victoria being “mass murder” may have led to the legitimation of the hate-rant stuff that’s now taking off on Facebook.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Monday: “I think it’s important that the nation braces itself for more bad news. This is a little horror which few of us anticipated.””What do you say about anyone like that?” Rudd said. “There’s no words to describe it, other than it’s mass murder.”

This is how moral panics work. A “legitimate” source – in this case the Australian Prime Minister – makes a signal statement that looses the fear and gives an imprimatur to louder calls for action and revenge.


The witches of Facebook – lynch mobs dribblejaws’ style

February 17, 2009

If Facebook is the new global village, it’s a village full of fucken’idiots, simpletons and dribblejaws (with the honourable exception of all my friends of course).

One of the people accused of lighting some of the devastating fires in Victoria has had his lack of education and sad love life splattered across the news pages in a way that doesn’t appear to advance the story at all.

Accused arsonist angry at girlfriend’s rejection.

Now this has turned into a vigilante exercise in witch burning. A number of people have started Facebook groups that have, despite the protests of the founders, become lynch mobs. This group, Make it know B****** S****** is the man who was arrested for arson, is the most prominent. Here’s what founder Yvette Langstaff has to say:

People need to put a name to the crime, not be left in dark. This site is for people to vent thier frustrations of our legal system, for people to grieve & leave messages of support to our hardworking firefighters and volunteers.

Please do not post photo’s of suspect on this site and we do not condone lynch mob’s..

“Vent their frustrations of our legal system”? What the hell is this? What has the legal system done? Nothing except follow due process. A suspect has been charged and is in custody. He will face a trial on arson and possession of child pornography (if there’s a link there I can’t see it). What is there to be frustrated at? What’s with the wandering apostrophes?

Read the rest of this entry »


Social networking and the NYT – be careful what you sign-up for

February 3, 2009

Thanks to Poynter Online for posting the New York Times guidelines for reporters using social networking sites as a journalistic tool.

The first guideline is about politics or controversial groups and flagging your own political beliefs

If you have or are getting a Facebook page, leave blank the section that asks about your political views, in accordance with the Ethical Journalism admonition to do nothing that might cast doubt on your or The Times’s political impartiality in reporting the news. Remember that although you might get useful leads by joining a group on one of these sites, it will appear on your page, connoting that you “joined” it — potentially complicated if it is a political group, or a controversial group.

This kind of defeats the purpose of being on Facebook. Surely one of the benefits is being able to “meet” with like-minded people and to share your views. Also, if you don’t join a group, how are you going to find out what its members are thinking and doing?

I think this could lead to problems of another ethical variety — reporters using an alias to join controversial groups and not disclosing that they are working for a news organisation and then using material in the paper or in their journalistic work.

The constraints that the Times puts around its staff use of social networking seem a little overbearing. At the sme time they don’t seem to take into account the real journalistic abuses of Facebook and the other sites.

Read the rest of this entry »


Facebook and surveillance: “You can leave your hat on.”

January 20, 2009

The lesson here is when you’re committing a crime, no matter how hot it gets, keep your balaclava on.

Queenstown police nabbed a burglar after posting security camera images on the internet networking site Facebook of him trying to crack a safe.

Police said it was the country’s first such Facebook arrest and they would use the site again to fight crime.

“Facebook was very handy, and it’s a good little tool,” said Senior Sergeant John Fookes. [NZ Herald]


Insulted by Facebook – another Olympic Obscenity

August 16, 2008

I have a Facebook profile. I hang out there sometimes and it’s been a really cool way of finding former colleagues and old friends that I’ve lost touch with. When I go to London in a couple of weeks I’ll be catching up with people I haven’t seen for years, but I know they’re in London and expecting to see me because we found each other on Facebook.

Social networking is here to stay, but you know, it’s still a fairly conservative space.

I saw a great New Zealand comedy act on TV last night. They’re called the Lonesome Buckwhips and they did a most excellent pisstake anthem for the Olympics. I tried to find it on Farcebuerk to add it to my music profile because I want you all to hear it.

But look what came up when I did a Facebook search:

Not only was I challenged to find out if Tom Cruise is smarter than me – he’s not, by the way. This is just more Scientology advertising on Facebook, I have no doubt.

The Loneseome Buckwhips’ song [Olympic Anthem]  I was looking for is not there, instead I was invited to download the Goo Goo Dolls track recorded to support A T&T Team USA at the Olympics. The last thing I’d ever want to do.

Get fucked Farcebuerk, get the fucking Olympics Obscenity out of my face and Tom Cruise and the Goo Goo Dolls; that’s not what I signed up for.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,427 other followers