Saturday, November 30, 2013

User-Generated Content: True or False?

Hannah May
Hmay2011@aol.com 

Instagram, Shutterfly, Picasa, Flickr. These are only a few of the colossal amounts of photo sharing websites there are in today’s digital world.  Every day photos are posted to these public websites and are used by others however they choose, free of charge.

Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, LinkedIn, Google+. Similarly to those listed above, these social media sites not only offer photo sharing but also promote more user-generated content in voicing public opinions via tweets, Facebook statuses or social sharing.

With around two million tweets per day and about one million Flickr photos shared per day it is safe to say that some may be hesitant to believe what they see on the web.

With millions of user-generated content available on the web, it poses as a threat to professionals if they choose to use this information when publishing for their own company.

The initial challenge organizations face when considering posting user generated content: 
authenticity and copyright.

The main question: Where is this even coming from?

Just because a photo is shared to Flickr, for instance, does not mean that the individual user abided by Flickr’s rules. Stock, edited and altered images can be leaked to these websites, which leaves professional news, PR, advertising stations to be unable to use them.

This leads into the statement we have all been told since day one but may not always follow: Do not believe everything you see on the Internet.

Do your research, verify your information. But how?

That is where professional journalists from the Associated Press, BBC, CNN and other outlets chime in to teach the naive on how to exhaustively verify your research.

The Nieman Reports recently issued a full-sweep news package on teaching the art of verification which collaborated the advice given from the above news organizations.

When cross analyzing each news organization's verification strategy, there is one rule that can be found similarly among them all: Always contact the person who uploaded or provided the material. Check the source as much as the information.

For a dramatic example of this effect let’s pose myself as a college student, working on a Photoshop project for a photograph class. The main objective of the project is to edit myself into a war-related scene, completely irrelevant to my current life in my small college town. I upload the image to Flickr. A journalist comes along the photo and sees the devastation in my face in the horrifying war scene. The journalist then uses the photo in an article.

Problem: The journalist did not verify his source.

Solution: Get whoever has posted the material on the phone. One simple phone call to my 20-something-year-old self and the professional journalist would chuckle that they were about to publish my college-created Photoshop image.

The extensive amount of photo editing programs also poses as a threat to media professionals. We now verify the use of photo manipulation in the mix, along with verifying written content and photo sources.

One way to avoid challenges dealing with photo manipulation is to use photos that are generated under an ethics code that formulates what can be cannot be done to the image. These codes will specify that there is no alteration or digital manipulation of the photograph.

Now that you have a quick preview into the vast world of manipulated content that is posted on the web every day, it is utmost important that if you take away one thing:

VERIFY VERIFY VERIFY. 





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