Facebook and the news

Murder victim opened her heart on Facebook – Sunday Star-Times – Sunday Star-Times

In light of recent posts about Facebook and other social networking sites, I thought it time to give a brief outline of my “theory” about this. I have mentioned previously I’m currently writing a book about news in the digital age.
I haven’t settled on a title yet, but it’s likely to be something like Journalism in the Age of YouTube…. I’m not sure, but the thrust is that I am writing about how social networking sites; the internet and blogging are impacting on journalism. The types of stories; the sources and even journalists themselves are caught up in this.

I just wanted here to draw attention to the ways in which Facebook, Bebo etc are now being used extensively as a “source” for reporters. Usually in the context of horrible murders, like the one discussed in the SST article linked above. In the print edition the frontpage splash is illustrated with photos taken from Sophie Elliott’s Facebook page, including a photo of her with her alleged killer.
I wonder did the SST get anyone’s permission, presumably Sophie’s family, to use this pic, or any pic of her from Facebook? Or is the assumption that because Facebook is ‘public’, no permission is required, stuff can just be ripped from there without regard to privacy or copyright issues.

And what about potential contempt of court. A photo of the alleged killer – can this influence potential jurors?

then there’s this piece from the SST’s sister paper, Sunday News
Another horrible murder and another “news” link with social networking. In this case the brother of the murdered Scottish tourist pleading with her to come home:

Come home Karen
KRISTIAN SOUTH – Sunday News | Sunday, 20 January 2008

The brother of murdered Scottish backpacker Karen Aim had no doubt where he wanted his sister to be when he made an emotional internet plea to her just after New Year.

“Forget this glass blowing carry on at the other side of the world,” Alan Aim, 23, wrote on his sister’s page on the Bebo social network website.

“My Orkney road passenger transport ambitions have doubled and could do with a bit of extra resources pulled together!

“Don’t reply to this, just get yourself back here.”

But instead of flying back to help Alan with his tourist travel business on the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland, 26-year-old Karen stayed on in Taupo partying with friends, working in a glass-blowing gallery and settling into the Kiwi summer.

Her decision to remain in New Zealand proved fatal on Thursday morning, when she was bashed to death just 50m from her home. She told police her name with her dying breath.

The emotional tug of this is palpable. But what about the invasion of privacy? Oh, there is none. Bebo is like a public park. If you stand in the park and have a conversation, and a reporter overhears it, would you expect it to be in the next day’s paper?

We haven’t seen the end of this explosion of cheap and nasty news based on shameless plundering of Facebook etc.

It should be a warning to us all. In cyberspace, the eyes of the world are on you. This is a surveillance society, even in tragic death.

I am keen for readers of Ethical Martini to draw my attention to stories, from anywhere in the world, that take up the themes that might be interesting for my book. All tips gratefully acknowledged. The best way to do that might be just to drop a few lines into a comment on a post that catches your eye. Or you can email me driect at the address in the top right corner of the page.

3 Responses to Facebook and the news

  1. Julie Starr says:

    This might be be a story for you to watch, Martin:

    “Detectives fear a bizarre suicide craze is sweeping through teenagers in a small town (in Wales) fuelled by chat on social networking sites after seven friends took their own lives.”

    http://tinyurl.com/23cz2e

  2. Paul Tudor says:

    I too am interested in commercial “exploitation” (is that the right word?) of Bebo, Facebook and the like. It is fascinating that a news agency such as SST seems to have such blatant disregard for copyright – let alone the ethical, privacy implications of this.

    Your book project sounds interesting – any leads on articles on the subject would be gratefully received.

    Cheers

    Paul

  3. […] like YouTube, blogs and social networking that are transforming our culture in many ways. Some little understood, some welcome [?], some not. Mosco argues that as bit and bytes become embedded in everyday objects […]

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