Sky News issued restrictive new social media guidelines Feb. 7, the Guardian reported.
According to the Guardian's report, under the new guidelines, Sky News journalists aren't allowed to re-tweet (re-post) any tweets from "rival 'journalists or people on Twitter'" or tweet about anything un-related to one's professional topic area. Journalists are also told to "pass breaking news lines to the news desk" before tweeting about them as well, unless the tweets are part of "verbatim reporting" from Sky News-assigned "court cases, parliament or judicial inquiries." These guidelines are to prevent any unverified information from being sent out under Sky News' name, the guidelines indicate.
Sky News journalists are, however, recommended to re-tweet tweets by fellow employees. According to the guidelines as published by the Guardian, "Where a story has been Tweeted by a Sky News journalist who is assigned to the story it is fine, desirable in fact, that it is retweeted by other Sky News staff."
Concerning the guidelines, a Sky News spokesperson is quoted by the Guardian as saying "Sky News has the same editorial procedures across all their platforms including social media to ensure the news we report is accurate." Media Bistro added that Sky News explained the new guidelines are to protect "editorial control" of Sky News news. and information.
Reaction to the Policy
Media Bistro's All Twitter called the new guidelines "somewhat draconian" and "an unusual move for Sky News" because the media company " has developed a reputation as an innovator of digital technology, using Twitter to break many significant news events, including the Arab Spring and London riots."
Giga Om's Mathew Ingram weighed in as well, writing that the policy "completely misses the point of what makes Twitter so powerful." Ingram related Sky News' policy to the Associated Press's social media policy, which was criticized last year, as we have written.
"As with so many traditional media outlets, both AP and Sky chose to focus their policies on what their staff shouldn’t do, instead of concentrating on what they should do. As we’ve pointed out before, these kinds of rules seem to be aimed at trying to remove the human being from the process, something that may work in traditional forms of media, but fails miserably when using social tools like Twitter. The whole point of using them is to be social, and that means expressing human emotions and possibly even opinions in some cases."
On the other hand, Forbes' Ewan Spence wrote that he supports the new guidelines. For example, the rules on re-tweeting could restrict fake news and rumors from spreading. He wrote:
"For a start, it’s Sky’s house, and they can apply the rules in whatever way they want. But it’s also incredibly practical. Stories can burn round the web far faster than the time it takes to double source a story and there are far too many instances of one incorrect tweet getting out of hand...Sky News are following an old maxim…It’s better to be second and right, rather than first and wrong."
UK site The Drum published a sampling of reactions "for" and "against" the policy here.
According to the Australian, "Sky News Australia has confirmed it will not be implementing similar rules in Australia."
We have written to Sky News seeking comment and will update with any response.