Agence France-Presse Revises Social Media Guidelines for Editorial Staff

Agence France-Presse became the latest media organization to clarify its guidelines for the use of social media, releasing its revised policy Wednesday.

Agence France-Presse became the latest media organization to clarify its guidelines for the use of social media, releasing its revised policy Wednesday.

AFP said of the changes:

The Arab revolutions from Tunisia to Yemen have underscored the importance of social networks for newsrooms the world over. Therefore, in the context of current events in Syria, AFP is painstakingly collecting and verifying data from social networks on a daily basis.

AFP is tightening its rules and applying the same verification methods as it uses for traditional sources. These principles are being put in place because of the open nature of the Internet. Journalists must be particularly cautious in verifying Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and websites before using them as information sources.

Notable excerpts from the guidelines:

We may use Facebook, Twitter, etc. for evidence of reactions within social networking sites to soft news events, such as the death of a celebrity. However, we could not use those statements as a source for the event itself.

An unverified statement on a social networking site may not be used as the source for a news break, nor for a description of unfolding events, unless we are sure of the authenticity of the account.

Jokes (LOL) and the free and easy language that characterizes the networks should not cause us to forget the basic rules: Don’t quote from anonymous accounts, and don’t publish comments that are smutty, libelous, racist, sexist, etc. We apply the same standards to such comments as to those gathered during standard reporting.

The use of Wikipedia as a documentary source is banned. Don’t quote Wikipedia: It does not meet our standards of reliability.

Always speak with the AFP journalist closest to the story to get an informed opinion. For example, before using YouTube videos from Iran, we asked the Tehran bureau to verify that the images had indeed been shot in the cities stated and that the scenes depicted tallied with reality. We have done the same with Libya, systematically referring to our correspondent in Tripoli who has authenticated some footage. Other locations have been confirmed from still photos posted on official sites before unrest erupted.