Who owns your Twitter followers? Do you? Does the company you work for?
That was a key discussion point at the final session of news:rewired – media in motion. The debate centered on how different news organisations set social media standards. Panelists were: Laura Kuenssberg, business editor with ITV News; Neal Mann, digital news editor for Sky News; Katherine Haddon, head of online with English, AFP; and Tom McArthur, UK editor of Breakingnews.com.
The question was raised when Kuenssberg mentioned leaving her former employer, the BBC. Like her current Twitter handle (@ITVLauraK), her previous one referenced the BBC. The following issue arose: Could Kuenssberg take her followers with her or were they the BBC’s?
“Can someone own your followers?” Kuenssberg asked. “Unlike an email or a tape or a written page, you can’t take your followers. It’s their call. … They’re not property in the same way something else would classically be property.”
The debate also turned to the subject of Twitter guidelines. The panel generally agreed that if you wouldn’t say it on air, don’t tweet it, a point Laura Kuenssberg introduced.
“If you’re not happy about saying it on air or on a talk show … then really you shouldn’t be putting it on social media,” Mann added.
The same also applies to discussing rumours on social media. Kuenssberg, Mann and McArthur all suggested simply telling readers if something was or was not confirmed by your media organisation.
Haddon explained that employees at AFP aren’t allowed to tweet breaking news – as that is the product the agency sells.
“You can say to people, ‘we’re hearing reports of x, we don’t know what it really means but it sounds like it might be really big and we’re doing everything we can to find out for you’. That’s OK. People can cope with it,” Kuenssberg said.