Privacy and Credibility Issues on Social Media

In the digital age, we get the latest news and communicate with each other easily through social networking sites. However, there are some privacy and credibility issues. I want to briefly share some tips regarding the protection of privacy when using social media networking sites. And then use the fake news of ‘White House Explosions, Barack Obama Injured’ on Twitter to analyse the credibility of social media source.

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For privacy protection, every online user should make sure the computer has security measures before logging into the social media sites (Chiron). I believe it is better not to post too much personal information such as the date of birth, financial information, street address and mobile number. Furthermore, Jayson also notes that no matter for business or personal use, confidential and sensitive pictures must not be posted. When adding friends or approving followers’ requests, we should try to be selective. It is advisable to restrict the right of strangers to post information on our profile and limit them to view the entire profile.

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(the image shows protect your privacy)

The following video explains the Dos and Don`ts when using social network to protect your privacy online.

In regards to the credibility issue on social media, a survey conducted by the Reynolds Journalism Institutes found that only 42 percent of online users think that information from social media is credible (Taylor &Francis). On the contrary, 65 percent of people believe that the content from the traditional media have a high level of credibility. In my opinion, information from social media is not always trustworthy. The false news exerts a profound negative influence on other industries, such as retail industry and financial industry.

Take the rumor of ‘Explosions at White House’ on Twitter for example, the AP (Associated Press) Twitter account sent a fake tweet on 23 April 2013 (Blake). This false tweet was about the two explosions in the White House and President Barack Obama being injured. The AP Twitter account later confirmed that their account had been stolen by hackers. Subsequently, it caused widespread panic in the US financial market (Domm).

From the two images below, it can be seen that a sudden decrease in the stock market occurred shortly after Twitter released this fake news. The stock market fell over 150 points within one minute. It might become the fastest drop point in the stock market history.

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DJ30-Industrials-White-House-Explosion  Image Source

The following video demonstrates how fast the ‘White House Explosions, Barack Obama Injured’ false tweet led to the US financial community’ s panic.


From the video, we can see that 1,903,328 followers have followed this tweet and the stock market has lost more than $136 million in value on that day.

Jewell claims that Twitter has over 140 million active users and approximately 340 million tweets per day. However, it is significant to keep in mind that fast does not mean credible and accurate.

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As social media has become an important tool for journalists to find and share information with large audience, journalists are encouraged to have a social media account. How to identify credible sources in social media networking sites is challenging us. One method is to ask questions, which would help people to determine whether the information is credible. For instance–“does this news seem unbelievable? Does it make sense to me or other readers? Does it contradict with what I have known to be true before?” (Westerman et al.)

In addition, I believe that for some business-oriented social networks like LinkedIn, the entrepreneurs have to think about how to make their brand more credible. If they can deal with some potential problems of their customers, they could establish a long term trust between their brand and their customers (Patterson). The Internet Advertising Bureau  also indicates that 79 percent of customers would buy more products if the brand is credible on social media.

The social networking sites have become powerful communication tools. Nevertheless, it also associates with the privacy and credibility issues. To deal with these problems, both large audiences and journalists should get a sound understanding of privacy and credibility problems and take advantage of some effective strategies. The strategies include ensuring security software before signing into the social media sites and being selective when adding friends.






Mobile Devices and Journalism

In this week’s tutorial, four members in our group talked about how journalists use mobile devices to enhance their reporting. I am very interested in this topic. Our tutor required us to take notes. Meanwhile,  I read some related texts after class.

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Advantages of Mobile Devices for Journalists

A survey conducted by the Carter Journalism Institute in 2013 reveals that 84 percent of journalists have a smart phone (Esther&Glenn). The majority of them reach social media networking sites by means of mobile devices. This survey also indicates an interesting fact that if journalists left their mobile phones at home, more than 65 percent of them would go home to get it.

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(the image shows journalists using their smart phone to photograph the cast members of a film)

Mobile devices like iPhones have incorporated many functions that make them appealing to journalists. Mobile devices are portable and compact, making it possible for journalists to take them everywhere. A smart phone or a tablet weighs less than two pounds and is much smaller than a desktop computer (Pinola). When breaking news occurs, journalists could use devices to effectively report news or conduct phone interviews in remote areas.

The following video shows how to use an iPhone to record phone interviews.

In my opinion, it is very convenient for journalists to shoot a short video or take pictures with their mobile phone. Citizen journalists can post first hand reports and then connect to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Youtube. Mwamba notes that it is difficult for investigative journalists to use professional cameras to get a close look at some unpleasant situations, such as serious crimes and political corruption. Using a smart phone equipped with a hidden camera, investigative journalists are able to capture photos or videos discreetly.

Furthermore, I think that journalists should have Twitter, Google, Qik, Instapaper and Dropbox on their mobile phone. Having Dropbox on mobile phone, the journalists do not need to take a pen and a paper for interviews. They could just save the files or photo videos to the computer and access them from their iPhone (Marshall).

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Disadvantages of Mobile Devices for Journalists

As for the disadvantages of mobile devices, Jenkins claims that as mobile phones continue getting smaller, they are easier to lose. Therefore, it is essential for journalists to consider a series of questions when they lost their smart phone. For instance, “is there sensitive information or protected sources in the phone? Are there unpublished multimedia images in the phone?” As mobile devices are an attractive target for criminals and hackers for finding sources, journalists should keep in mind that there are some security risks when using mobiles.

The SMS (short message service) is used frequently by mobile journalists to communicate with editors (Ulbricht). However, text messaging from mobile devices also has dangerous factors. If the mobile phone is lost or even stolen, the sent and received messages which stored in the phone are vulnerable (Quinn). Thus, I maintain that journalists should use an encrypted messaging app, which could better protect the SMS communication.

There are two suggestions for journalists to take precaution when using their mobile devices (Nathan). Firstly, set a personal identification pattern or number for starting the phone. Secondly, investigative journalists sometimes go to regions which have military, criminal or insurgent groups. They had better prepare two mobile devices. One is for the personal life and the other is for the professional use.

Nathan also notes that in case their phone is stolen or lost, 41 percent of mobile journalists would back up the photos, contacts and other materials on their phone. 32 percent of them wipe out their searching history or browsing history. In order to not allow other individuals or companies to access the information on their phone, 14 percent of them turned off location-tracking on the mobile phone.

To sum up, mobile devices are changing the way journalists report and share news. As analysed above, they are very handy and multi-functional. Nevertheless, they still have some risk factors, like information leaking. Journalists should have the awareness of how to protect the information in their smart phone, such as setting up a personal identification pattern and backing up some crucial contact methods.