The UK Mirror published a story about a man’s blisters from a spider bite that was based entirely on his Facebook posts. Despite the man’s complaints about the publication of his photos, the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled that the Mirror story was not an invasion of privacy.
The Mirror‘s Aug. 11 story, “False widow spider bite leaves man with horrifying blisters and organ failure,” reported on a man who had posted on Facebook a “photograph of his arm after the blister had burst.” Along with this photograph, he included a message warning his 30 Facebook friends about his hospitalization and blisters after being bit “by what he thought was to be a false widow spider.”
The Facebook post included the man’s age, where he lived, information about getting the spider bite, how his body has reacted to the bite, and the hospitalization.
We searched the Mirror‘s website but didn’t see the story still published. Other UK news outlets, including the Mail, reported on the spider bite photos and story.
Apparently, the Facebook post got thousands of shares, which led to media attention, but the man told IPSO he didn’t know that.
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The Mirror defended its use of the Facebook post because the privacy settings were set to public, so anyone could see the post. Further, the Mirror pointed out that his post asked for people to read about his problem, writing “I don’t ask much from people but I ask you to please read this. I am not posting this to scare people, simply to bring awareness.”
The Mirror said the two photos it used were from the man’s Facebook page, whereas he claimed one was from his wife’s account.
While IPSO noted the photos were “graphic photographs of a medical condition that he was entitled to consider private,” since he posted them on Facebook and indicated that he was open to other people seeing it by writing he wanted to “bring awareness” to the bites, IPSO found they and his story was fair game. The second photo that the man was upset about — the one of unpopped blisters that he said his wife posted — was OK to post too, IPSO said, because it was similar to the photo he posted publicly.
iMediaEthics has written to the Mirror to ask for comment about the IPSO ruling.