The erosion of ethics: from citizen journalism to social media

Jessica Roberts*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to consider the implications of the shift from citizen journalist to social media user by examining how ethics are addressed on social media sites compared to citizen journalism sites. Design/methodology/approach: This paper applies the framework of a 2012 study of ethics on citizen journalism sites to social media sites’ guiding documents to compare how they discuss ethics and what they ask of the users, offering suggestions for how social media sites might imbue users with a sense of their responsibilities and obligations. Findings: The analysis finds that ethics are largely ignored on social media sites, written in legalistic language and framed in negative terms, rather than in terms of responsibilities or obligations. Originality/value: When citizen journalism was subsumed by social media, much of the language – lacking as it may have been – around users’ responsibilities to each other was lost. This paper suggests social media sites should seek to raise rather than lower the barriers to entry, and imbue users with a sense of the responsibility they accept when sharing information online.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-421
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2019


  • Citizen journalism
  • Codes of ethics
  • Ethics
  • Journalism ethics
  • Social media


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