Can you do journalism on Twitter?

With all the reporters using Twitter these days, it’s interesting to see that now this question might finally get a real look.

In the past, when issues of ethics came up, it was only the tech press around, and they were more or less unanimous in getting angry when their ethics are questioned. Tar and feather the accuser. Lots of excuses why they had to feed in the same trough as their competitors. The lure of millions of followers is too strong to resist. Let’s see if the mainstream press is any better.

Here are the salient facts.

1. Twitter just threw a reporter off the service for revealing the email address of an NBC exec. 2. NBC requested Twitter do it. 3. NBC and Twitter have a partnership.

So at this point, if you’re a reporter and you have a story that’s critical of Twitter, do you post a link to your followers? What if it reveals information they consider private? What if you violate some other of their terms of service? Have you disclaimed to your readers and followers that you are subject to their terms of service? Do you know what’s in their terms of service?

All this time the press has been acting as if Twitter were a public utility, when it is nothing like that. It’s a service operated for free by a private company. They don’t see it in any way as a public utility. They have good PR and have chosen a friendly logo, and they make jokes and they’re nice guys. But they’re running a business. And your writing is subject to their whims. And your recourse is nothing. Read the terms of service.

And lest you think Facebook is any better, it isn’t.

It’s time for journalists to take a serious look at this and decide if they are really serious about journalism. Imho.

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About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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