Sloppery slip: The problem with sharing content online

I saw something the other day in a Facebook “group” that caused a stink.

I’m a bit of a pop culture geek, so I’m in a lot of groups for TV shows, movies, comic books, music, etc.

A member of one of these groups (in fact, he’s the group’s creator/administrator) shared a photo to the group, which looked to be a fan photo taken of the star of a show at a fan festival (the fan him/herself aren’t in the photo; just the star).

Well, another group member commented on the post and got up in his sh*t about posting a photo that wasn’t his. The group admin who uploaded the photo then got defensive, saying he saw it on another group or page and explained how difficult it is to know where anything comes from originally to give proper credit.

The arguing went back and forth publicly in typical train-wreck social media let’s-see-how-much-time-we-can-waste fashion until one of them relented. The admin later made a separate post apologizing to the commenter, then setting new rules in his group about “saying where photos come from when posted.” (in other words, attribution.)

This is all interesting to me because social media truly opened the floodgates when it comes to content shared online. Just like Napster did a decade before, Facebook and other social media sites have made it easy-peazy to grab and share photos and copy/paste written content to share with their “friend list” or in their “group.”

I work for a large media company and write online (news) content for them, so we deal with issues like this all the time. When writing stories and needing an accompanying image, we’re only allowed to use imagery WE OWN or imagery we’ve been given permission to use (save that email that says you have permission, kids!).

But these are stories written for brands that have thousands of readers (websites for local news stations) and money (people file content-related lawsuits all the time), whereas sharing content to your Facebook profile is nearly impossible to police. Plus, a share to your Facebook page will only be seen by your “friends list,” however big it is, unless it’s set to public and goes viral (super rare).

So, I chimed in and shared with the group admin what I knew, and now I’m sharing it with you: If you spot something you like on social media, use the “share” button. This re-directs the content back to where it came from (should anyone want to look at it further) and when people see it on your page/timeline (or posted to your group), they’ll see the original post and poster along with it, giving credit where it’s due.

If the original poster hasn’t set it to “public,” then you won’t be able to share it, which is how the poster intends it to be. So, don’t share it (unless it’s privately, in a message). But…just because something posted is set to “public” doesn’t mean the poster (also quite possibly the owner of the content) wants you to download it and share it as your own.

Another thing about Facebook Groups – as opposed to your personal profile, where you might have 300 friends on your list, some of these groups have grown well into the thousands (the one I’m talking about has around 4,000 members). With that kind of scale, people will begin to take notice of your posts, and get pissy if they spot you posting content that isn’t yours to “add value” to your group, while devaluing someone else’s.

So, if you get harassed online for sharing someone’s content, you’ve been advised.

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