The opportunities to publish have grown exponentially with the explosion of social media. Unfortunately, social media have opened the door for fake news and misinformation to compromise the integrity of publishing. Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms give everybody the chance to reach the public with their pictures, thoughts, opinions, and stories, without regard to the ethics and standards that have guided print publishing for centuries.
Legacy academic and scientific journals remain bastions of integrity, but there are a plethora of new titles, especially on the Internet, bearing few ties to institutions and short on adhering to publishing standards.
Suggested Publishing Guidelines for Integrity
The journal Publication Integrity and Ethics presents general guidelines that set out the following objectives:
* Define and promote best practices in the ethics of publishing
* Ensure optimum standards are upheld by publishers
* Hold authors, editors, peer-reviewers, and publishers to the highest ethics and standards publishing demands in a free society
* Safeguard that reports are informative, fair, balanced, and accurate
* Eliminate published reports that mislead readers through omission or commission
* Require confirmation of reports as legitimate news and informed commentary
* Respect the privacy of individuals
* Afford targets of stories the opportunities to offer a balanced response
* Present relevant opinions and policy positions of publications based on data that is not misrepresented or suppressed, including disclosures about conflicts of interest, and
* Refuse to publish images that are abusive, inequitable, and harmful to religion, race, national origin, etc.
Lack of Social Media Integrity
Free societies are plagued with threats to integrity in publishing: fake news stories and concocted facts. There are no widely accepted standards or agreed-upon ethics among Internet site providers.
As indicated by the rancorous presidential campaign of 2016 and the public’s insatiable appetite for “dirt” about celebrities, the phenomena of unsubstantiated facts and reports are so widespread that the owner of Facebook announced in November 2016 that Facebook is instituting controls over what’s posted. Facebook announced: “We take misinformation seriously. We’ve made significant progress,” in developing stronger fake news detection, warning systems, easier reporting, and in technology that will classify misinformation.
Sounds legitimate and heartfelt; however, former employees of Facebook claim the company allegedly uses technology to create tools that slant stories and eliminate posts contradictory to Facebook’s philosophy and advertisers. According to The New York Times (May 9, 2016), conservatives charge Facebook with suppressing articles favoring their positions. Social media sites do this by “trending,” a means of manipulating technology to highlight or never post news. Conservatives are left feeling violated and silenced by Facebook and others.
Integrity in publishing is a constant work in progress. Intellectual versatility is no excuse for violating the trust of readers by comprising publishing integrity.