Misinformation And Disinformation How Does Social Media Impact Photojournalism

News on social media websites directly impacts how we consume information. Newspapers have gone online because print newspapers are no longer as popular as they once used to be. There is a decline in newspapers being bought worldwide, especially in Britain (Mayhew. F, 2020). This has left the public to turn to social media for their daily dose of news. According to (Reuters) 51% of people access information from social media sites.

Furthermore, Ofcom released a report, “News Consumption in The UK 2019” Ofcom (2019) in the report, Ofcom states that “There is evidence that adults are consuming news more actively via social media. For example, those who access news shared by news organizations, trending news or news stories from friends and family, or other people they follow via Facebook or Twitter are more likely to comment on the new posts they see than the previous year. “The report proves there is clear based evidence that there is an increase in news engagement by the public on social media.

What also needs to be considered is how news is accessed on social media. Different platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, target a diverse audience. Twitter users may not have a Facebook account and vice versa. The factor to consider here is age. Different age groups use various social media platforms. With the help of social media giants, media outlets use algorithms to target their audience. This includes paying for social media marketing. This equates to more likes and shares for the media outlet. Often when a user logs into social media, a news story pops up on the user’s feed even though the user isn’t particularly interested in news.  

Social media has made it easier for media outlets to reach a wider audience. Those who never bought a newspaper in their lives are now engaging with news online. This begs the question of the authenticity and accuracy of information online. Any individual can create a news website online and start sharing so-called news (fake news), which may not be accurate at all.

Fake news is all over social media. This makes it challenging to figure out whether the articles we are reading online are true or fake because of the speed at which news is shared on social media. This makes it difficult for news companies to do the necessary fact-checking. News on social media seems to be updated several times an hour, which is impossible with print journalism and photojournalism. 

Social media has been taken over by the general public and citizen journalists who frequently post videos and photos they have taken during a crisis or incident. Often these videos are not what they seem. Some have been edited and the truth fabricated. Videos claiming to be in one country can be filmed in another. This now makes the public doubt the authenticity of these videos and photos seen on social media.

A classic example is The Middle East Eye (Cobain and Ross, 2020) wrote an article about “British contractors who recruited Syrian citizen journalists without their knowledge.” They created a network of citizen journalists at the start of the civil war, trying to change the perceptions of the conflict. This story is even more bizarre because the Syrian citizen journalists didn’t know that contractors in London directly employed them. Photojournalists who often sell their images don’t always know which publication their photos went to. They could appear on social media under a fake title which is worrying. 

There was a time that photojournalism was our only way of finding what was happening in another part of the world. A middle-aged man would travel to different parts of the world with a camera around his neck. He would usually go to the most deprived areas, Africa and Asia. He would spend some time out there. Later returned to the Western world. His images would then be published in a photography magazine, newspaper or book. Since the digital age of social media, this traditional method has changed. 

Photojournalists can now travel to take photos in different parts of the world and can readily upload their images onto social media instantly if they choose to. This might help society because if the public knows there is a crisis somewhere, the international community can help by sending aid immediately. Photojournalists can now also take videos using their iPhones uploaded to social media in this era. Something the photojournalists were not able to do in the past. Anyone, including the general public, can do that. It doesn’t have to be a photojournalist.

Social media has its advantages; however, what needs to be considered is since the video and photo editing software was created, staging, and manipulating images has become prevalent. The viewer will now question whether what they see in an image is the truth or a photoshopped version of the truth.

Photojournalism has come under scrutiny in recent years because there was a time when we used to trust the camera entirely. Photojournalism is about capturing the truth, which is important, mainly if the photojournalist is covering something like war. How competitive photojournalism has become has pushed the photographer to break the code of conduct. Like the winner of the World Press Photo competition, Giovanni Troilo was stripped of his prize as he claimed a photo he took in one city was taken in another location (Chrisafis, 2015)

There is pressure to tell the best story taking the best images, which can then be shared on social media. So, is setting up shot photojournalism or is it more editorialization. The public has questioned the authenticity of news for quite some time now. So, it’s fair to say that photojournalism deserves the same mistrust. Post-processing of images has a lot to do with that. 

There is a danger of sharing news and photojournalism on social media as some people believe everything they see and read online. This can lead to marginalizing or discriminating towards certain groups of people. Like those from ethnic minorities. Here is an example of that The Sun claiming one in five Britons support ISIS (Worley, 2016)

IPSO received 3000 complaints about the article. If it weren’t for social media, those affected by this article would not be able to contest it. On the other hand of the argument, if it weren’t for social media, we would believe anything that is being told to us, like in the olden days. Any news article would publish a print edition, and the public would go along with it. If we only had print journalism, then this article would not be investigated by IPSO.

Social media has enabled the public to question what they choose to believe which side they want to be on, whether right, left or centre. There are advantages and disadvantages to photojournalism and news on social media. Social media impacts the current role of photojournalism. This can make the photojournalist’s work more difficult, especially if they are ethical and honest about their work. The backbone of photojournalism is honesty, responsibility, accuracy and truth. However, fake news is making truthful photojournalism difficult.

An agenda is being pushed forward more than ever, like misinformation which can have damaging effects. Social media companies have been put under pressure to do something about the fake news on their platform. Some of those social media giants claim to do something about fake news. However, it is important not to believe everything you see and read online, especially social media. 

Piece written in 2020


Mayhew, F., 2020. UK National Newspaper Sales Slump By Two-Thirds In 20 Years Amid Digital Disruption. [online] Press Gazette. Available at: <https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/uk-national-newspaper-sales-slump-by-two-thirds-in-20-years-amid-digital-disruption/&gt; [Accessed 16 May 2020].

Reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2019-06/DNR_2019_FINAL_0.pdf&gt; [Accessed 16 May 2020].

Ofcom.org.uk. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0027/157914/uk-news-consumption-2019-report.pdf&gt; [Accessed 16 May 2020].

Cobain, I. and Ross, A., 2020. REVEALED: The British Government’S Covert Propaganda Campaign In Syria. [online] Middle East Eye. Available at: <https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/revealed-british-government-covert-propaganda-campaign-syria&gt; [Accessed 16 May 2020].

Chrisafis, A., 2015. World Press Photo Award Withdrawn Over Violation Of Rules. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/mar/05/world-press-photo-award-withdrawn-over-violation-of-rules&gt; [Accessed 16 May 2020].

Worley, W., 2016. Saying One In Five British Muslims Support Isis Is Officially Ridiculous. [online] The Independent. Available at: <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/ipso-sun-british-muslims-story-headline-significantly-misleading-a6953771.html&gt; [Accessed 16 May 2020].

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