New Zealanders’ attitudes to their personal social media content and their expectations about how broadcasters can use it, are revealed in new research commissioned by the Broadcasting Standards Authority. The research is the first of its kind to explore whether broadcasters are held to a higher standard by the public when it comes to publishing or republishing social media content.
The research found:
- While New Zealanders are savvy about social media and understand that it may form part of the internet public highway, they believe broadcasters should observe strict privacy standards when considering using individuals’ social media content.
- Despite a strong information sharing culture, members of the public do not consider that broadcasters can just take any social media content and use it in the broadcasting context.
- The public expect their social media content will remain in the context in which they published it, because taking it out of that context can significantly affect its impact and message, and the likely audience.
- In some cases, the public interest may justify the republication of social media content in broadcasting, eg, emergency situations.
- Issues of consent and privacy are core concerns that need to be addressed.
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• Members of the public expect broadcasters to observe stricter privacy standards than they apply to themselves or to other prosumers of social media content. They see this as appropriate, because broadcasters can publish information very widely, and what they publish is highly credible. Broadcasters therefore have greater potential to cause harm than individuals do.
• However, there is an increasing level of potential legal liability for individual publishers who breach the privacy of others, for instance in the area of harmful digital communications. Prosumers are still relatively unaware of this. While it is true that broadcasters can cause serious or different harm by republishing social media content and that this justifies regulation, individuals can also cause very significant harm to others by what they choose to capture and publish on social media.
• The reasons why people behave the way they do on social media are complex and evolving. In particular, individuals seek out different platforms to fulfil different gratifications. Platform affordances (for instance technical features) can have a major impact on expectations of privacy.
• The expansion of content sharing features through social media means that communication is becoming much more visual than before. Many users capture content with the intent to publish. Photos are used not only to connect with friends and family and share experiences, but to share knowledge or help to build a broader network. Publishing what we see is an increasingly ubiquitous and often unconscious social norm.
• There are some generational differences around capture of content for social media use. In particular, younger people tend to communicate with or through photos rather using photos as a record of an event.
• However, younger people do not care less about privacy, though older people persist in thinking that they do. Users of all ages are concerned about lack of control over personal information online, and are sometimes cynical or fatalistic about the chances of protecting themselves. But many users, especially younger users, demonstrate a strong knowledge of, and willingness to use, privacy protective techniques.
• Individuals often imagine an audience for what they publish, and attempt to calibrate their content accordingly. However, people often underestimate how broad the actual audience might be. This means that they do not necessarily appreciate the effect on privacy that their content might have. They share information expecting it to remain within the context in which they are publishing it, but the complexity of the environment makes this difficult: each item of information reaches or involves others in the social network. Rather than expecting to maintain contextual integrity, it is better to recognise that privacy protection needs to be networked: all actors have a part to play.