The Social Media Integrity Challenge


Many of us create and reply to posts on a variety of Social Media networks and blogs, including Facebook, Twitter, etc. every day. Many of these posts contain content and links to content that express opinions designed to sway reader’s toward a particular position.

I read one such post today, on the subject of Net Neutrality. This is a subject I myself, with more than 25+ years of Internet experience; do NOT consider myself an expert in. I couldn’t help but wonder; how many posts like this are authored or shared by people who have little or no subject matter expertise in their content? How many posts contain content that has undergone little or no or critical analysis or fact checking by the poster?

The seemingly endless flow of non-expert, un-fact-checked 3rd-party content, begs yet another question. What is the source of the “trust,” imparted to various sources, be they people or an institution, which emboldens people to repost this content as fact?

Journalism’s “Code of Ethics”

Are there ethical issues or matters of “journalistic integrity” to be considered by average bloggers and posters, before submitting a post? To try and find answers to these questions, I turned to the very web that spawned them.

Even in the arena of “Professional Journalism,” there is no universal oath of integrity or ethical standard. A recent post by Beth Harte revealed that:

The Society of Professional Journalists “requires” its members to:

• Seek Truth and Report It
• Minimize Harm
• Act Independently
• Be Accountable

And the American Society of Newspaper Editors (founded in 1922) Canons of Journalism holds that journalists should display:

• Sincerity, Truthfulness, Accuracy (good faith with reader)
• Impartiality (news reports free from opinion or bias)
• Fair Play, Decency (recognition of private rights, prompt correction of errors)

Despite being encouraged by their peers and trade associations, many “professional journalists” have a tough time abiding by these “codes of ethics.” The “mainstream media” and professional blogosphere is filled with stories that contain questionable facts, disingenuous “truths,” and even outright lies. Bloggers and Social Network posters who spread these falsehoods, regardless of their motivation, not only join in perjuring the truth, but are often lying to the people closest to them, their coworkers, friends and families.

Blogging With Integrity

In July of 2009 a new organization called “Blog With Integrity” was created. The goal of the organization is simple; encourage bloggers to blog with the highest levels of integrity by:

• Providing clear disclosure of their interests so readers can evaluate their words.
• Treating others with respect.
• Taking responsibility for their words and actions.

I have signed the Blog With Integrity pledge and would like to see all of the bloggers I follow do so as well.

The Social Media Integrity Challenge

In the same spirit of integrity, I propose the following ethical standards for those who post content from blogs and the web:

I will:

• Post only from blogs with a published integrity policy
• Never post content designed solely to inflame or incite
• Never represent unsubstantiated theories as fact
• Think critically, write clearly and post with integrity

“I am for integrity, if only because life is very short and truth is hard to come by.” Author Unknown

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3 Responses to “The Social Media Integrity Challenge”

  1. I am going to play the devil’s advocate but we are talking about bloggers participating in a virtual world where people create their own reality about who they are, what they do and how they project themselves to the community. The line of ethics may be crossed or straddled daily just by merely logging in and pretending to be someone you are not. Just a thought.

  2. I like this post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s a necessary, often overlooked subject.

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