Twitter is a wondrous thing, quick to pick up, quicker to use, share, and be heard across the globe, getting your self retweeted and trending in no time.
But with this great feathered gift comes pitfalls, particularly for journalists. Obvious ones, but pitfalls worth noting, especially in the wake of the Newsnight/McAlpine case.
When you post online on social networks or blogs, you become a publisher and those publications “are subject to the same laws as those of professional publishers, such as newspapers.”
As I’ve written before, Twitter is just a tool, like your phone, pen and paper or editorial content management system. Or:
Journalists should remember that Twitter is just an additional channel, like writing on a wall. #nx12
— Faisal J. Abbas (@FaisalJAbbas) November 16, 2012
Charlie Brooker offered three simple rules to using social media in the wake of recent news media events, common sense being the key point, but he explains it far more eloquently and sarcastically than I.
A vital @paulbradshaw post for anyone creating and publishing content: 7 laws journalists now need to know, from database rights to hate speech, definitely worth saving, bookmarking and sharing with your news team/colleagues.
More legal advice from: Viewpoint: What dangers may lie ahead for libellous tweeters, by Niri Shan And Lorna Caddy on bbc.co.uk:
The legal position of an individual who posts content online, be it on Facebook, Twitter, or on comment sections of online news pages, is clear: He or she is responsible for that content [that includes a retweet]. Ignorance of the law is not a defence.
And a quickly tweeted apology as a “defence is unlikely to succeed.”
As well as the old adage, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, retweeting without verifying any information within the 140 characters or reading a linked tweet has it’s own risks:
You, as the journalist, should always click before a retweet. You need to vet the info before you pass it along. Studies like this also should be motivators to be mindful that even if a retweet is widespread, that doesn’t mean it’s widely read. By extension, that doesn’t meant it’s widely vetted. (Indeed, that’s probably a bit how Twitter rumors spread.)
You may also be interested in: Journalists: get more value from Twitter – tips, tools and ideas
- BBC College of Journalism – Defamation: a very brief summary of the law on defamation for journalists, viewed 13 November 2012
- BBC News – Ex-cricketer Chris Cairns wins £90,000 libel damages, March 2012
- Guardian – Twitter and the law: 10 legal risks, August 2010