The media oversight organisation Pressenævnet has announced that it is acceptable to use material from Facebook if the individual has many ‘friends’ or ‘friends of friends’, including individuals that journalists have no personal connection to.
Until recently, journalists have been consigned to using only Facebook content in connection with cases deemed to be of great interest to the public.
Content from a private Facebook account can be spread if one or more of the friends of the individual have an open account. In such cases, all content is then considered public information, usable by the press. Additionally, all accounts that have a privacy setting set to ‘public’ are also considered to be under the umbrella of the public domain.
This decision especially affects public figures such as politicians who currently use Facebook as a tool to convey their political messages and ideology.
The new guidelines come in the wake of several high profile public figures that have faced criticism following Facebook updates. Former immigration minister Søren Pind was embroiled in controversy last year after he used his Facebook account to compare the Utøya massacre in Norway to an environmental protest in Østerild.
Pressenævnet referred to a decision made by the government ombudsman (link in Danish) in November 2011, indicating that it was acceptable for authorities to use information gleaned from private Facebook accounts.
“Pressenævnet discussed the ombudsman’s decision at a meeting in January, during which we decided to follow in the similar vein,” the organisation said in a statement. “This will primarily influence situations involving high profile individuals with a high number of friends, such as politicians. However, each case will be assessed individually.”
A good rule of thumb is that the more open your privacy settings are, the more your content is available to the public domain.
You can read more about Pressenævnet’s Facebook decision in their annual report (Danish) scroll to section D, paragraph 1.1.