The Guardian has issued new social media guidelines warning that staff who engage in public slanging matches with each other on Twitter could face disciplinary action.
It has also warned staff against airing opinions on social media, scooping The Guardian website and “strongly encouraged” them to delete old posts.
The new guidelines follow various high-profile spats involving Guardian writers, including Owen Jones who recently took to the platform to deny bullying a fellow staff member.
However, The Guardian said the guidelines revision process has been ongoing for a year and they are not a response to any one incident.
The Jones bullying allegation followed a tweet on 3 October in which he said: “Watching the horror of the Sarah Everard murder being derailed to further stigmatise and attack trans people is frankly beyond belief.
“To those responsible: do you know the damage and hurt you’re inflicting particularly on young, scared trans people? Do you even care?”
He explained: “On that day, an Observer writer wrote an article linking the murder of Sarah Everard to the issue of trans rights…”
He added: “The writer launched a complaint against all Guardian staff members and contributors who publicly criticised the linking of Sarah Everard’s murder to trans rights.
“The bullying complaint was not upheld. Instead we were all told we’d violated Guardian social media guidelines on criticising, even indirectly, our colleagues.”
Jones said he had been attacked “dozens of times” by colleagues on Twitter, in print and in right-wing media outlets.
The new Guardian social media guidelines follow extensive consultation with staff and are the first time they have been updated since 2018.
A new role will also be created in the managing editor’s office “that includes responsibility for social media, so that GNM journalists and editors have somebody to talk to for expert advice and support, including on abuse or harassment when needed”.
Guardian editor in chief Katharine Viner said: “While there are many benefits to social media – sharing stories, for monitoring, newsgathering or finding sources – journalists around the world also increasingly face new and different types of threats online. The aim of GNM’s updated guidelines is to ensure all our staff and contributors use social media in a responsible way and that they feel safe and supported if they choose to use social media.”
Guardian social media guidelines: Key updates
‘Personal’ social media accounts carry big responsibilities
“Personal social media accounts are personal and we do not own them. But always remember that if you are associated with GNM then everything you post, like or link to on social media – regardless of the platform – can easily become public and on the record, and may be seen as representing an official GNM position, even if that is not your intention. Your role working for GNM, in whatever capacity, comes with considerable responsibilities on social media.”
It’s not obligatory to be on Twitter
“Most staff can do their jobs extremely well using social media either occasionally, such as to share Guardian and Observer stories; for monitoring (‘listen-only’ mode); newsgathering/finding sources; or not at all. You are not expected to have a presence or a following on social media.”
Airing personal options can harm your reputation as a journalist
“The Guardian and the Observer are renowned for fair and accurate reporting, and being trusted matters. Editorial colleagues – particularly those working in news – should remain especially mindful of blurring fact and opinion when using social media.
“Be aware that expressing partisan, party-political or strong opinions on social media can damage the Guardian’s reputation for fair and fact-based reporting, and your own reputation as a journalist. The same applies to likes and retweets.”
Never criticise colleagues on social media
“GNM encourages open debate about issues that are important to our staff. However, it is never acceptable to criticise colleagues on social media either directly or indirectly, eg through subtweets.
“We strongly discourage the use of social media to air any form of internal disputes with colleagues or contributors, or with GNM. This is a serious matter. Always address problems or disagreements offline. If a staff member attacks a colleague on social media, they may be subject to our disciplinary procedures.
“Freelancers on contract who abuse colleagues may be in breach of their contracts, while occasional freelancers may see future opportunities with GNM impacted.”
Don’t use Twitter to scoop your own site
“Remember, as a journalist your job is to break news for GNM, on GNM’s platform, not on social media.
“Only tweet breaking news if the news editor is happy for you to do that, rather than report it for the website.
“We strongly encourage staff to regularly delete historical tweets and other social posts. We recommend using the Tweetdelete service to do this. The cost of this can be expensed.”
Telegraph cartoonist Bob Moran was fired in October 2021 for airing controversial views on Twitter about the wearing of face masks on public transport.