A cautious approach

Reporters use social media for personal and professional reasons and news organizations responded to that situation by crafting policies for staff addressing the use of social tools online.  The BBC’s guidelines represent a cautious approach to employee use of social media. Banning employee use of social media for personal use would be impractical and impossible since any employee could easily operate a site without notifying management and then create greater problems for the organization. Recognizing this, the BBC allows use of any social network, but places reasonable, common sense limitations on what editorial employees can do on these sites.

Nothing in the BBC policy is outrageous or unexpected, they take a careful, measured reaction so people can balance their personal and professional lives. BBC’s policy covers blogs, microblogs, personal pages on social networking websites and in all cases approaches the site with the premise of do nothing that would be reflect poorly on yourself, your work, or the BBC.

Posting images to social networking websites of work events is given special caution in the BBC’s guidelines, they explain:

For example, there may be an expectation that photographs taken at a private BBC event will not appear publicly on the Internet, both from those present and perhaps those not at the event. Or the BBC may have objections. Staff should be considerate to their colleague in such circumstance and should not post information when they have been asked not to. They should also remove information about a colleague if that colleague asks them to do so.

This sentiment is not limited to the BBC or to BBC employees. Each individual has their own expectation of what is and is not appropriate for their online space. Pictures should not be posted online without the permission of all identifiable individuals who appear in the picture. BBC errs in requiring employees to “not post information when they have been asked not to” and instead should require employees to seek permission prior to posting the content. Pictures taken at a public event should be exempt from this policy.

Unfortunately social media policies cannot be restricted to “common sense” and need to be written out. BBCs policies are necessary and are mostly what people would do anyway, since editorial employees know as standard ethical practice not to advocate for a specific political cause, they would also know not to do so in the form of a Facebook group. The core of the policy is, everything is public and each user is responsible for all their online actions.

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