I do feel that ethical responsibility has suffered as a result of how gathering and reporting news has evolved over time, especially with social media and citizen journalism. For instance, journalists have an ethical responsibility to uphold honesty and accuracy, to verify their information, to work diligently to gather the correct information to report and relay to the public. However, a citizen on social media or a citizen doing citizen journalism with video or other media, do not have to uphold this type of responsibility, though they should. Unfortunately, this happens quite often with the presence of social media and anyone being able to post anything they would like, even under an anonymous or fake account, such as NetSpies.com. An example could be citizen journalism where someone posts a video, but it is only part of a story or incidence. It may include a misleading caption or no caption at all. This can lead to misinformation or misled conclusions among the readers because there is only a certain, biased portion of the story portrayed.
One story that was released February 2019 was about Representative Adam Schiff using tax payer money to settle a sexual harassment suit from 2013. A Twitter account owned by a citizen attempted to spread this information across the internet and social media through a fake news site called NetSpies.com. The site’s article stated that they interviewed the former assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, who made a statement about a man, Will Bottom, who was in an abusive relationship with Schiff. The article also included a photo of a man with a black eye.
A fact-checking site, Snopes.com, which can be used to verify the accuracy of different stories across the internet, deemed that this story was false. After speaking with the former assistant managing editor, Snopes was able to verify that she did not ever speak with anyone from NetSpies.com and did not state any part of that story. The man Will Bottom was found to not exist at all. The photo of the man with the black eye was found to be of another man, Taj Patterson, after he was beaten in Brooklyn, NY, in 2013. At the end of the article by Snopes, they include their references. Their references include the interview they did with the Los Angeles Times former assistant managing editor, the reference to the original photo of Taj Patterson when he was beaten and received his black eye and the story associated with it, and a report of Schiff’s rebuttal and six key points of it by USA Today.
Attached below is a link to the Snopes.com article, which includes a Twitter post of the NetSpies.com false report and a Twitter post by the Los Angeles Times former assistant managing editor.
Below is a picture of the Twitter post associated with NetSpies.com.