Ethical Implications of Graphic Images

The Boston Bombings brought along many images of people who were either killed or seriously injured in the blasts. Many of these images were placed in online articles with a disclaimer that these images were graphic and people should look at their own risk. But when it comes to social media, there sometimes is no disclaimer. Even if there is a warning in the text of the post, often times the audience scrolls to the image before they have a chance to read the warning. I honestly don’t see anything good that can come from posting graphic photos from the Boston Bombings on social media.

Images that end up in various news feeds don’t have age filters on them. Even if a teen is old enough to have Facebook or Twitter, ¬†they may not be mature enough to handle images of death or gruesome injuries. Obviously I don’t think the teens would be seeking out images of this nature, so I believe it is the responsibility of the person who is posting them to consider all the ways that it could upset the audience if he or she did post them.

As I mentioned, instead of posting the image directly to social media, they could post the article with the disclaimer, to give people a choice of whether they want to see the images or not. This could not only shield minors from viewing the images, but it would protect friends and family members of the victims from having to involuntarily see images that might bring back painful memories. Finally, if members of the audience have an uneasy stomach or can’t handle any type of blood or gore, the wall of the link would shield them from the potential of getting sick.

If someone were to post graphic images from the Boston Bombings on social media for everyone to see, some could view that as the person wanting attention or trying to shock the audience rather than doing something good. With a tragedy so widely publicized as this, people understand the extent of the damage without having to see it on social media. If people wanted to donate their time or blood to help victims, they could do that without a graphic image persuading them.

Finally, if a victim of the tragedy was injured and one of their photos was put on social media without their permission, there could be serious ethical concerns. Personal privacy vs. public interest would certainly be one of the main arguments. The victim may not want to be remembered forever as “the person who survived the Boston Bombings” and wouldn’t want to be looked on with pity for the rest of his or her life. If their photo was placed on social media and went viral, there’s a good chance that the person would never be able to break their public association with the event.

 

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Ethics of an American Tragedy

I remember the day of the Boston Marathon Bombings very vividly. I got home from school, turned on the television and immediately texted my friend, whom I know has family in Boston, to see if everything was alright. Even though most of my days are spent on social media, this was one event that I didn’t hear about on Facebook first. However, for the rest of the time that the bombings were at the forefront of the news, most of that news came to me through social media.

In dealing with the news breaks of tragedies like this, people have many ethical dilemmas about what content to publish on social media and how that content might affect the audience. There are certain situations where someone’s heart is in the right place, but it comes off as in poor taste to the public. When a news broadcaster asked fans to “like” a photo of an injured boy on Facebook to let the boy know how many people care, it was met with some intense backlash. Even in situations that are bad, but maybe not to this extent, I always feel awkward “liking” a post with bad news. I would feel much more comfortable commenting to let the person know that I am thinking of them, rather than “liking” the post. I feel like this is what the broadcaster should have done to create the desired effect of his post, while also possibly eliminating any negative feedback. Although it could be annoying to see so many of the same message, people have the option to personalize it and truly let the boy know how they feel about him.

Courtesy of PA Media Group

In response to the image above that Ford posted to the first responders of the bombings, I saw nothing wrong with it. I can understand why people would think that Ford was doing this to push their own product, but I don’t believe they were. In an article with PR News Online, head of social media for Ford, Scott Monty said “if you manage social media for a brand, this would be a good time to suspend any additional posts for the day.” I don’t think Monty would have said that if his true intention was to sell a product during a catastrophic event like this. If people thought that Ford had an agenda more than sending out well wishes, I think they are cynical. It’s not unethical to thank someone on social media and Ford should not be made to feel bad about doing something good.

With every tragedy, there are going to be questionable moments of whether posting something on social media is ethical or not. If you’re unsure of how people will react, don’t post it. But most of all, think of every possible way the content could be misconstrued and do everything in your power to eliminate those possibilities.