The BBC's editorial guidelines now include advice for journalists on the use of social media and user-generated content, following today's publication of a new edition.

The new edition also covers content at BBC Online, which previously came under separate guidelines. It updates the previous guidelines, published in 2005, incorporating social media and user generated content for the first time.

According to a BBC Trust commentary on the guidelines, "the new edition takes account of editorial issues raised by technological developments such as mass audience voting by phone, email and text, and the availability of material from social media".

A review of the guidelines, commissioned by the trust, began last year when a new draft was drawn up by the BBC Executive in consultation with the trust's Editorial Standards Committee.

The trust then decided for the first time to put the draft guidelines out to public consultation, which ran from October to December, alongside audience research. According to the trust, the consultation resulted in 1630 online responses and 15 written submissions from the public as well as responses from 11 industry and interest bodies.

"New technology has presented new opportunities for journalists and programme makers, offering an unprecedented ease of access to potential content," reads the guidance to the new edition.

"But it also presents a range of new challenges: we seek to meet the demands and expectations of audiences who now have the ability to seek out a similar range of content directly on the internet as and when it becomes of interest - whilst simultaneously paying due regard to any privacy or other ethical considerations if we choose to re-publish that content to large audiences.

"The growth of social media has undoubtedly created a generation of people who are willing to make personal information about themselves available online, and much of that information may be considered to have been placed in the public domain - but the fact that material has been placed in the public domain does not necessarily give us the right to exploit its existence, disregarding the consequences."

There are also new guidelines on the use of user generated content and on the use of images from social media sites. User-generated content should be taken advantage of, state the guidelines, providing it "fulfils our public purposes and matches the standards our users expect of us on the internet".

"User generated content may be hosted on BBC Online, integrated with BBC created content or with user generated content from third party sites, or on occasion it may be run on BBC branded spaces on third party sites.

"Every online space where user generated content is published must have a moderator who can remove illegal and inappropriate content and it should normally have a host to provide a visible and active presence. There must also be a named individual in the relevant division to take editorial responsibility for the content, ensuring that the space maintains appropriate overall standards of moderation and hosting."

The new edition urges caution in the use of images from social media sites – "Don't assume that pictures from the internet show what or who they purport to show - verify them to ensure due accuracy." – and seeks to remind users of the need for sensitivity: "We have a responsibility to consider the impact our re-use of a picture to a much wider audience may have on those in the picture, their family or firends - particularly when they are grieving or distressed."

Other new guidelines include advice within the 'Harm and Offence' category for content producers to consider the effect of online users arriving at "challenging content" following links from third party sites, rather than finding it from within the BBC site.

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