PCC against Facebook journalism

There is increasing guidance being given by bodies such as the Information Commissioner about the dangers of posting photographs to social networking sites. Clearly, posting photographs risks having those photographs put into the public domain eventually.

However, the Press Complaints Commission has laid a marker down that it does not consider the use of social networking photographs to be justified where this requires the press to circumvent privacy settings, unless there is a public interest justification. To do so would be a breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

This is the result of the PCC upholding a complaint against the Scottish Sunday Express by parents of survivors of the Dunblane shooting in 1996. The Scottish Sunday Express had published photographs and other material about the children to claim that their normal teenage behaviour “shamed” the memory of the deceased.

The only negative aspect to this story is that as the PCC is a self-regulatory body which has been given limited powers by the newspapers it governs, the only result of having a complaint upheld is that the relevant newspaper has to publish in a prominent manner a report of the PCC adjudication. The PCC has no fining powers or the ability to award compensation.