Latest update to social media guidance for BBC News Group staff

  • 30 March 2015
WhatsApp and Facebook app icons Image copyright AP

Today, updated guidance to help us get the most out of social media is being distributed to staff in BBC News, and published online. A near-identical version of the same guidance is being distributed for staff in BBC Radio.

We last published this guidance back in 2011, since when a lot has changed. There has been a proliferation of new social media platforms - for example, the growth of live-streaming, and chat apps like WhatsApp. There has been an ever-increasing use in BBC News output of content originally shared on social media by unofficial sources (also known as eyewitness media, or user-generated content).

Meanwhile, BBC News reaches an estimated 35 million people every week on Facebook alone, we're the most shared news provider on Twitter, and we've been trying out new services in places like Instagram and Snapchat.

However, much has stayed the same since 2011 - not least the BBC's values of accuracy, trust and fairness.

Which is why the fundamentals of our social media guidance remain unchanged. As our guidance puts it: "A useful summary has always been and remains: 'Don't do anything stupid'".

Other fundamentals remain as before, including not saying anything that may compromise our impartiality, not sounding off about things "in an openly partisan way", and not revealing confidential BBC information.

So what's new?

The guidance now has a specific section on user-generated content, covering - for example - how we should treat those sharing content with us. The guidance also includes a section about breaking news, previously published separately in 2012.

Other additions include reminders about the safety implications of sharing location data, about the impression given by those we follow or befriend on social networks, and about the impact of spreading unconfirmed rumours, especially in breaking news situations.

Finally, we've tweaked the guidance aimed at those we designate as using social media "officially" to make clear they don't have to only talk about their work (in fact we encourage the opposite).

Overall, the guidance is a reflection of the fact social media is now just part of what we do, albeit a critical part, allowing us to talk to people, involve them in our output, and distribute or bring them to our content.

But it's a space that moves at an incredible rate, and we want to make sure the guidance we have continues to allow us to get the most out of it.

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