Twitter hoaxes and the ethics of new media — what happens now that we are all journalists?


There have been a rash of internet hoaxes lately — including a fake Google protester, a made-up tweet from Paris Hilton and a fictional conversation between a “reality TV” producer and an irritating passenger on an airplane. As a New York Times story points out, most of these were spread by social media and fuelled by credulous reports from a number of media outlets. Media critics have rightly argued that this is a problem, driven at least in part by the speed of online media.

Obviously it would be nice if more media outlets checked such reports before they repeated them. But are reporters and bloggers the only ones with any broader ethical responsibility? What about those who engage in hoaxes? What is their responsibility as members of what Yochai Benkler — of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society — has called a “networked fourth estate?”

A responsibility to…

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