Facebook is without question (or with questions) one of the best social networking tools available to journalists. Most people have a Facebook account including many politicians, business owners and celebrities. Following those people can lead to tips or news that a decade ago would have required leaving the house. Beyond that, Facebook is becoming a tool for reporting news especially breaking news.
Facebook has two main methods of following a Facebook user, the Like Button and the friend request. This is where ethics comes into play. If a journalist that covers politics likes a page, is that action an endorsement? It should be. However, the Like Button is generally viewed as a “click here to follow this page/image/comment” button.
I would be careful with the Facebook Like Button. My mother calls me three or four times a day concerned about a page or photo I liked on Facebook. She insists that I am endorsing that page or image. I would imagine there are more people with the same concerns.
To be fair Facebook should include a Like Button, a Dislike Button and a simple Follow Button. That would remove any ethical issues and stop my mom from calling me every few hours. Of course, that would be too simple and Facebook has proven that they do not understand the definition of the word simple.
So we are left with no way to separate our personal beliefs from our journalistic duties as far as Facebook is concerned. Many will understand that liking a page is not an endorsement while others will insist we are supporting whatever we have liked. So how can we get around the Like Button?
One way, my preferred way, to get around the Like Button is to use Facebook lists. Facebook does have a feature that allows you to build a list to follow. You can follow the lists of other people or create your own. Read more about Facebook lists here.
If you have any Facebook tips or a comment related to the topic at hand, I would love to see your views in the comments.