Honestly and truly, I have beef with social media reporters (and I don’t even do meat, so you know it’s serious). As an internet researcher and data privacy advocate, I regularly search the interwebs to see where I pop up online. While I do this with my given name, I also do this with my government name, various internet handles, and pseudonyms as well, which is a fun way of reflecting on past internet personas and my burgeoning online identities.
That was until I started to notice that my social media handles would occasionally appear in articles and publications for the popular press.
Almost like a quote from a source that you would find in a traditional article, these tweets and social media posts would usually appear along with other people’s posts mixed in with a journalist’s commentary or coverage on a hashtag, event, or cultural concern. While I would usually not have an issue with this, I found it odd that no one had ever asked me if I wanted to be included as a “source”. Instead, the journalist would take it upon themselves to include me in their article, signal boosting my online comments without any follow-up or consideration of my public facing privacy.
And while we can say that most tweets and social media posts are public, I have also addressed how that cultural belief can have many problematic consequences. But even more-so, this style of reporting seems to fly in the face of the traditions of reporting and working with sources. Therefore, I want to address some of my concerns with social media journalism and offer some suggestions for ways that the profession can engage with a more ethical and considerate form of reporting on social media posts.
The Norms of Quotation and Journalistic Research
I will first note that not all social media reporters engage in these problematic forms of reporting, but I have seen it enough to question why it is occurring in the first place and what it says about how people view social media posts. One of the primary issues that I have seen within social media reporting is the way that posts are included within articles. Many times, the posts are included with the full name and profile photo of the author (similar to screen-shots from a social media platform)…