The ease of availability of a picture does not remove the BBC’s responsibility to assess the sensitivities in using it, according to the editor of BBC News online.
Writing on the BBC Editors Blog, Steve Herman stated that the question of the ethics of pulling pictures from social networking sites has bee raised by colleagues during an editorial standards meeting.
As a result of that meeting a newsletter is produced, he wrote, summarising discussions circulated to staff to offer guidance.
The advice offered to BBC reporters is that because material has been put into the public domain does not necessarily give the media the right to use it, primarily because the BBC would bring significantly greater public attention than would normally be expected.
The newsletter added that consideration on the original context and the impact of re-use to those who may be grieving or distressed must also be applied.
Legal, copyright and accuracy of the image should also be at the forefront of reporters minds when considering use of images from social sites.