Public interest or interested public?
The broadcasting regulator wants the media to rethink how it uses public social media posts without permission.
The Broadcasting Standards Authority has published the results of focus group discussions of 48 people organised by Colmar Brunton. It says it was prompted by an increase in people complaining about social media posts appearing in broadcasting, and an “urgent” conversation is needed.
The authority’s results show people are worried about their privacy.
“New Zealanders are savvy about social media and understand that it may form part of the internet public highway, they believe broadcasters should observe strict privacy standards when considering using individuals’ social media content,” the BSA says.
“In general the public do not consider that broadcasters can just take any social media content and use it in the broadcasting context.”
The research listed Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube as the primary social media platforms.
The Broadcasting Standards Authority says the research provides insights into how people think and their expectations. It wants to work with broadcasters to develop guidance about what it can republish.
Its chief executive, Belinda Moffat, spoke to Kathryn Ryan on RNZ’s Nine to Noon show this morning.
“What the focus groups said is they don’t want their content being taken out of one context - their social media, networking environment for their own imagined audience - and shown to a much wider audience,” she says.
The focus groups were split by ages. Moffat says younger people are generally better at being aware of, and using their privacy settings.
When someone dies, a common media tactic is to plunder Facebook pages for comments left as tributes. Moffat says most people accept that public content is fair game, but there are moral and ethical issues.
“There will be exceptions, such as in a crisis scenario where the information is in the public interest … but privacy, individual rights and context need to be considered.”
Earlier this year, the authority upheld a complaint that a segment on 1 News breached people’s privacy. It featured photos published on Facebook of students and teachers from a Tongan school band injured in a bus crash on Christmas Eve.
While the photos were public, the authority ruled that the injured patients receiving medical care were in a vulnerable position and did not consent to their images being featured by news media.
“[The focus groups] want broadcasters to think about whether what they publish is newsworthy - is it really in the public interest - not just whether it’s interesting to the public,” says Moffat.
You should be able to hit them harder with these regulations.
“Just because it’s viral, doesn’t mean it should be broadcast as news.”
The authority’s report contains anonymous comments from the focus groups. One person called for updated privacy laws, while another simply wanted “stricter regulations”.
“While individually you can’t really regulate what people share and publish, with big media organisations, you can probably hit them, either with stopping them from publishing for a while or monetary [fine], like you should be able to hit them harder with these regulations and you possibly can look to regulate the industry a bit more that way.”
The focus groups considered how much personal responsibility people should take regarding what they post online.
“When you think of how people behave and how you expect them to behave, that’s been developed over a long period of time and continues ... but social media develops so fast on the different platforms and different ways of using it, that’s gone,” one person said.
The research also analysed what motivates people to use different forms of social media.
People were categorised into different groups, such as entertainers, caring connectors, cautious observers, knowledge gatherers, opinion sharers and attention seekers.
“The impact of social media on our society has been significant and its influence on contemporary culture, and particularly the media industry, continues to evolve,” says Moffat.
“In our role, the BSA must keep pace with rapid changes in technology, the rise of social media platforms, developing social dynamics, and the shifting legal landscape.”