Associations created

Nearly a year ago Facebook launched a new group feature, no longer were groups created by an individual and then controlled by him/her and whomever he or she designated an administrator, now groups would be the collective effort of its members. Joining groups changed as well, with the launch of “new groups” a user need not consent to join a group, “friends” could add a user to whatever group they wished creating an unwanted and possible damaging associati0n for the person added. As Facebook tries to grow as a journalism platform they are simultaneously promoting services which make the site antagonistic to journalists by allowing other users to destroy a reporter’s online reputation. When Facebook launched this new service Mashable wrote “Facebook asserts that social norms will govern activity,” when there is no social norm for creating a public association for another person, no existing norm regulating adding “friends” to groups without knowing their wishes while Facebook provides no mechanism for opting out of being added to groups.

Until joining this class, I did not join a “new group,” either on my own or by someone else’s hand, the only groups to which I belonged were old and largely dormant, and used only to remind myself of affiliation with certain alumni groups to receive updates. None of my associations could cause a problem for me, and if they did it was my own doing. Recently I received a notification that a “friend” of mine added me to a group which I had never heard of, and about which I did not care. Given that situation my only choices were to remove myself from the group (and doing so required logging onto Facebook, a selfish motivation by the service to artificial increase their hit counts) and report my “friend” who added me to the group.

This group was innocuous, however a “social norm” which my the platform and my “friend” perceived does not exists, there is no reason for publicly bonding a person with a group without their prior knowledge and consent. Outside this class, I do not use Facebook’s features other than chat (although given recent developments that will end soon), posting updates through other programs (tweetdeck) and a few events. For my purposes, the site remains a closed means of connecting with a few people. Others however use the site publicly, and being added to a group without consent can create problems of a perceived bias, or damage a reporter’s reputation if added to a group promoting prostitution, pedophilia, dog fighting, or other socially unacceptable or illegal activity.

Much has been made of social media ethics for reporters, and carefully deciding who to follow. If a reporter believes that they should connect with an equal number of opposing groups there is no way to ensure that ratio if connections can be made by third parties. This problem is equally prevalent and unsolvable when a reporter can be added to a group when they decided not to publicly follow any causes, groups or other entities which might impact their reporting, or when they make the decisions about with who to connect on a case-by-case basis.

As a platform, Facebook has again proven itself unworthy of the public’s trust and ineffective as a journalist’s tool with its permissive stance on group membership. Journalists need to know that they are in control of their online connections, and Facebook demonstrates that it places fake connections above real ones and places “friendship” over personal control.

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