Nothing is private on the internet and people using social media networks should know that when they tweet or upload images on Facebook, you are publishing, says a panel of experts at today’s New Media Conference at HKU.
“If you are not paying for it, you are the product being sold,” said Dan Gillmor, the founding director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Gillmor said he barely used Facebook and he believed that things we post on this forum can never be secured as private information in any situation.
Whether it is tweeting, going on Facebook or using the iPhone app Instragram, there is no safe place to publish or post our personal stuff as it could be used inappropriately and in a way that you would never think of, he said.
Kristie Lu Stout, the host of News Stream from CNN’s Asia-Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong, agreed. She never posted any photos of her daughter or personal photos on her Facebook page as it is a privacy issue, while her public profile page is more of a professional outlet.
Jay Oatway, social media consultant, raised another potential problem in using social networks, the professional crisis of a journalist.
Asked how could a journalist balance both their personal and professional image online, Oatway said that if we want to keep our professional image we may have to find another way to post our private photos and stuff like using Instagram or Pintrest rather than Facebook.
Lu Stout said she had taken some personal photos using Instagram, but she would not publish it on any social networks as the use of the photos could not be guaranteed.
I treat social networks as though I was publishing a television report, she says.
In a discussion about the role of social media in journalism, Lu Stout said it was “unfortunate about the situation in mainland China where they are relying on text mediums as a primary source of their news” because they cannot rely on state television or newspapers.
Oatway emphasised the social role of online networks.
“Social media is a digital version of social currency exchange … we want to exchange social currency and that’s what we do as people. We bond over shared stories,” Oatway said.
“We found these pieces of social currency… so where you are getting that from is … communities.”
Gilmor added: “The more local the topic, actually the more we are getting via from ordinary people breaking the news. It may not have a business model, but it’s the model of knowing what’s going on, and social media is made to order for that purpose.”
Turn a personal tool into a work tool
Lu Stout suggested that journalists can use social networks, especially Twitter as a research tool to collect information.
Oatway agreed, saying that journalists cannot just focus on using one social network, “we have to step in every one of them to understand how they work and learn from it”.
“Facebook, where we mostly post our own stuff, is a ‘me me me’ thing and we are more likely to know each other. However, the situation on Twitter is completely different, it is a listening tool which can allow you to learn from some cool people you do not know personally,” he said.
Gillmor added that Twitter is a tool to share our thoughts on issues.
‘Post information that shows we are professional’
Media institutions are increasingly using social networks like Twitter as a tool to keep readers updated with the latest news.
Lu Stout said CNN had been using Twitter to update its news for a few years, but many people question the degree of credibility.
“We get it right, not get it fastest,” said Lu Stout, referring to how CNN never used news from the internet, without verification from two concrete sources to ensure the reliability of the online information.