On 4 July 2017 the Independent Press Standards Organisation (the "IPSO") published guidance for editors and journalists seeking advice on how the Editors' Code of Practice applies to the use of material taken from social media to support or illustrate a particular story (the "Guidance").

The Editors' Code of Practice sets the framework for the highest professional standards for journalists and the IPSO's role is to uphold the Editor's Code of Practice. The Guidance does not replace the Code of Practice – it provides a framework of key questions for editors and journalists to consider when comply with the Code of Practice.

Key considerations include:

  • the extent the material is in the public domain, if at all

  • the nature of the material - for example:

    • whether it depicts anything private (such as medical information or private activities)

    • if there are reasons to exercise caution (such as if the information relates to a child or an individual experiencing grief or shock)

    • any legal issues arising from publishing the material (such as copyright or contempt of court)

Journalists must not assume that the absence of privacy settings regarding material on social media means that information can be published – the nature of the material, context of the story and what the material features will all need to be considered as well. The Guidance goes on to state that it may be useful for journalists to take screen shots of material showing dates and privacy settings if possible to support any decision to publish the material. The Guidance also sets out summaries of IPSO decisions involving social media as well.

The Guidance will be welcomed by editors and journalists given the range of enforcement options available to the IPSO if a regulated publisher has not upheld the expected standards – these include a fine of up to 1% of its UK annual turnover relating to the publication(s) which are found to have committed a "systemic failure" following a standards investigation. The IPSO is able to issue fines of up to a maximum of £1,000,000 in respect of each standards investigation.

The IPSO Guidance for journalists: publishing information from social media can be found here.