Is Instagram Ethical?
In the new epoch, the world is experiencing a rapid rate of transformation from the traditional media practices to modern media practices. It is undeniable that media practices now embrace versatile, digital, computerized, and networked information technologies. Nonetheless, scholars including Eid M. and Ward S. J. claim that the penetration and use social network platforms in media practices come with significant ethical challenges. Issue such as information control, communication speed, and privacy of information continue to perplex researchers. Since its invention in 2010, Instagram has gained significant attention and wide ranging use globally. Since its acquisition by Facebook, Instagram has emerged as the fastest growing social media platform with about over 12 million daily users. In fact, the application is fast penetrating new organizations around the world. In regards, issues associated with wrong use of this social media platform in creating and sharing dishonest, duplicitous, or deceptive content remain debatable. This dissertation seeks to discuss a case study involving ethical issues associated with the use of Instagram in journalism.
Although social media platforms such as Instagram provide users with unique ways of keeping in touch and sharing with friends, the use of such tools is unethical when various organizations utilize them as tools for tracking people and simultaneously provide misleading information to the audience.
The ongoing trend in embracing Instagram as a form of modern photojournalism continues to exacerbate. In the epoch of Instagram technology, the media communication organizations are beginning to adopt it as form or journalism. Nonetheless, scholars raise a plethora of questions regarding the ethical underpinning of using this form of platform as a forum for generating and sharing important information. According to Goldberg S., Instagram in September 2013 hit a milestone of over 150 million active monthly users. As such, more journalists are tempted to adopt this photo-sharing app as a platform for reporting. The question on accuracy, reliability, and the choice of photos to publish online remains debatable. As such, many cases have emerged questioning and trying to challenge the ethical rationale of using Instagram as an online journalism media.
In the beginning of 2013, The New York Times created a controversial scenario in using Instagram as a media for news reporting. In the case, New York Times used an Instagram Photo of New York Yankees third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, as a cover photo on the front page of its Sunday publication. Despite the fact that the photographer was a professional sports photographer, several journalists including Business Insider, Megan Dickey, opposed this act claiming that such a practice is a violation of the traditional photography. As a result, an argument arises among different journalists. Whereas as some journalists claim that properly edited Instagram photos are credible for news reporting, others maintain that such practices violate the rules of journalism photography.
In response, several journalists globally argue that Instagram’s ability to offer applications for altering, or putting filters on photos poses a dilemma on whether or not to accept it as a medium for news reporting. However, Kappler maintains that Instagram’s photo compressions limit that usability of the photos. He alludes that while Instagram filters are artsy and cool, they alter photos making them ethical unacceptable. In fact, most newsroom ethical guidelines prohibit filtering news-based photos.
Additionally, information and photos on Instagram are subject to biasedness. With the Instagram photo filters apps, any user can intentionally share a photo in the name of photojournalism. As such, the problem of photograph editing provides misleading information because they provide subjective content. In situations of conflict, Instagram apps may potentially generate content that misleads the public. The news media organizations, therefore, find it challenging to defend misleading content that are supposedly not originating from them. Accordingly, Instagram use compromises journalism ethics and professionalism.
In the new face of media practices, ethics and social responsibility are essential. Overholser G. asserts that despite the rising need to involve social media in journalism, values and ethics underpinning journalism must remain supreme. In his view, bringing and upholding journalistic values in these sites platforms that have absorbed millions of users is the most credible aspect. Although various news organizations embrace the try-everything-and-see what works approach, the issue of ethics and personal responsibility must prevail in all situations. It is undisputable that social media is gaining a significant attention in the news organizations. Aidan W. avows that newsrooms and media centers are complex organizations that rely on teamwork among professional. As such, it is difficult for a single journalist to be ethical on his/her own without intersecting such ideas to his/her counterparts. Accordingly, professional journalism practice requires collective ethical observance and adherence from all the participants.
Journalism presents unique ethical challenges and, therefore, every journalist needs to act responsibly in maintaining standards. Aidan W. reiterates that journalists need to defend their rights and avoid banal, superficial, cynical media. The virtues of journalism based on social responsibility requires journalist to ensure that they are accountable for any piece of information they let to the public consumption. Nonetheless, a number of literatures reveal that intrinsic tension exists between the principles of journalism and the needs of profit-oriented organizations. In regards, information arising from newsrooms and news organizations should not entirely depend on economic gains.
Although news organizations are fast moving towards modern forms of communication, they need to observe the three essential principles for journalism practice. The first principle is truth telling. Information on social media is sometimes rumors and propaganda. In the limelight of the ethical principle of truth, newsrooms and organizations must ensure that they provide accurate information. The ability to anticipate the possibility of an error needs to manifest. Various researches reveal that Instagram and other forms of social media platforms allow users to manipulate the content. For instance, hacking is an emerging practice associated with internet-based communications. As such, it is inevitably possible that hackers will interfere with the content of information on Instagram making it unethical.
The second principle, according to Aidan W., is the principle of independent and fair content. Newsrooms and news organizations must ensure that they only provide complete stories void of subdual of facts. It is imperative to underscore that anonymity associated with social media makes it difficult to trust information arising from such platforms. Accordingly, Overholser G. reiterates that bringing journalistic values to these environments with millions of independent users is quiet challenging. Picard R. G. adds that social media offers an array of services that can facilitate information sharing and communication. These technologies provide opportunities for news media but their use require well-thought ethical considerations.
Humanity and solidarity is another principle of journalism ethics. This principle requires journalist not to do any direct or intentional damage to others. It calls on journalists to develop an open regard for the rights of the public and the moral quality of journalism. Considering the new policy practice of Instagram in 2012, sharing personal photos and personal details with third party organizations is a violation of this principle of journalism ethics. As such, it is arguable that embracing the use of Instagram as a platform for news organization is inconsistent with the third ethical principle.
Moreover, the use of social media and social networking technologies also creates a sense of urgency and complexity in issues pertaining privacy. From a philosophical point of view, social media creates a locus of critical attention. Availability of users’ data to third party for commercial purposes makes their use unethical. As mentioned earlier the discourse, Instagram is operating on a policy that allows it share users’ photos and personal details to third party organizations that pay for advertising purposes. In addition, such information will be available for surveillance, which puts the users’ confidentiality at stake. Applications such as cookies and opt-in privacy controls to track online users’ activities are unethical. According to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are notorious of putting the users’ confidential information at risk. The users also have the leeway on social media voluntarily adopt imprudent, ill-intended, and unethical information sharing practices via these platforms. In regards, users may manipulate content of news from news organization and post them online with malicious intentions. As such, news organizations need to put in place privacy control to ensure that whatever they produce for public consumption does not suffer the abuse from the users.
In the advent of modern technology, various forms of information and communication technology have emerged. As a result, various organizations and institutions globally are embracing these technologies to remain relevant and abreast with the changes in technology. News organizations alike are also in this struggle in trying to keep with the pace of modern technology. The use of social media platforms such as Instagram, however, has ethical implications that news organizations must take into account. The fact that Instagram apps provide users with filters that enables them to edit and produce photos poses an ethical dilemma to journalist. Various literatures maintain that journalist have a duty to ensure that they provide complete, fair, and true information for public consumption. In regards, a number of scholars reiterate that the use of Instagram as news sharing platform is unethical.
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