Monday, December 03, 2018

Incident where Facebook blocks a "journalistic" post about the Charlottesville trial for an offensive meme raises even more questions about lawful content and press credentials

On Sunday, I reported (on my main blog) an incident where Facebook blocked the posting and even access of a Virginia journalist, Hawes Spencer, after he posted a link to his own news story which in turn caused an image of an offensive meme created by defendant James Alex Fields to show directly in the post.

The post was eventually restored, but it leaves a troubling question, of what happens when a news story posts a disturbing image for reporting purposes but there is a risk that illiterate users will misconstrue the purpose of the post and act on it.

In fact, reputable and established news sites won’t reproduce some images, particularly illegal ones, most notably child pornography, even for storytelling purposes.  It would be logical to wonder if, under FOSTA, an image promoting trafficking or prostitution would be illegal to embed this way.

What’s even more troubling is that this incident again begs the question, who gets to call himself a journalist?  Would a different standard be applied to an amateur blog post than to one in an established newspaper? 

Even the recent controversy over Jim Acosta also reminds us of this question:  who is fully accredited as a reporter who stands outside the impulse to take sides?
I don’t have press credentials and in generally don’t need them to do what I do.  But I am left wondering if this could change?

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