by Niamh Kirk
You just can’t take images of a child off Social Media and publish them…who’d have thunk it, right?
The Press Council of Ireland recently published the findings in a complaint against four news titles. Earlier this year the Irish Daily Mail, Evoke.ie, the Irish Daily Star and theSun.ie took images of a child off a YouTube video and published them without the consent of the parents. The Press Council of Ireland (PCI) found that this was in breach of the Press Code of Ethics, in particular, Principle 9 (Children).
Principle 9 − Children
9.1 The press shall take particular care in seeking and presenting information or comment about a child under the age of 16.
9.2 Journalists and editors should have regard for the vulnerability of children, and in all dealings with children should bear in mind the age of the child, whether parental or other adult consent has been obtained for such dealings, the sensitivity of the subject-matter, and what circumstances if any make the story one of public interest. Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion. The fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian must not be used as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.
In the complaint, the Ombudsman found that social media images of children that are intended for the simple act of sharing life events with family or friends cannot be used for news stories that they are not related to. The argument that many papers held, that once an image is on social media it is free to use, doesn’t apply to children.
Julie and Robert Duhy, the parents of a little girl who had her images used by the papers made a complaint to the Press Ombudsman against the four print and online titles.
The family were given a present of a Ralph Lauren baby pants for their daughter. The elastic on the pants caused red welts on her thighs and the Duhys initiated a civil action against the manufacturer on behalf of their daughter. Ralph Lauren agreed to pay the Duhys €17,500 in a settlement. This settlement was reported in most national newspapers which is common in the reporting of civil cases held in public court.
But the photographs some papers used of the Duhy’s child were taken from an unrelated YouTube video.
Yes, the logic in some Irish newsrooms was that it was reasonable to seek out the image of a baby on social media and published them without getting parental consent.
The Duhy’s complained to the Press Ombudsman and the mediation process was not satisfactory to them so the Press Ombudsman was asked to make an official decision. It was found that the papers had breached Principle 9 of the Code which, states that journalists and editors should have regard for the vulnerability of children.
A release from the Press Council says that “The decision was reached despite the Duhy parents uploading images of their child on a website with no privacy restrictions. The Press Ombudsman decided that the purpose for which the parents had uploaded images of their daughter had to be taken into account in any decision to publish those images.”
The Duhy’s did not complain under Principle 5 which relates to Privacy, but now that the Ombudsman has said that the purpose of uploading images is a consideration, it would be interesting to see how this might play out under a Privacy challenge now that the purpose of uploading has been considered as a factor.
I have written before about the fundamental differences between publishing on social and publication in the national press. The former is publishing to a specific network the latter is raising something from this specific network to a national talking point.
For now social media images of children at least require the consent of their parents’ consent and do not fall under the ‘free for all’ logic.