ONA Social Newsgathering Ethics Code

The ONA Social Newsgathering Ethics Code is a document that is intended to gather the support of news and journalism organizations of all sizes around the globe to endorse a set of standards and practices relating to the gathering and use of content created by members of the public.

The below organizations, groups, companies and individuals endorse and support these standards as best practices for the industry and acknowledge that integration of each element into their own operations would be desirable. This code may also be used to form the basis of a new UGC ethics code by any individual or organization.

If your news organization wants to be listed as a supporter of the code, please send an email with your organization’s name to socialnewsgathering@journalists.org.

The standards and practices are as follows:

  • Endeavoring to verify the authenticity of user-generated content before publishing or distributing it, holding it to standards that are equal or equivalent to those maintained for content acquired through other means.
  • Being transparent with the audience about the verification status of UGC.
  • Considering the the emotional state and safety of contributors.
  • Considering the risk inherent in asking a contributor to produce and deliver UGC, including whether it incentivizes others to take unnecessary risks.
  • Considering technical measures to ensure anonymity of sources when required.
  • Seeking informed consent for the use of UGC through direct communication with the individual who created it.
  • Being transparent about how content will be used and distributed to other platforms.
  • Giving due credit to the owner of the content providing that consideration has been given to potential consequences, including their physical, mental and reputational well-being.
  • Endeavoring to inform and equip journalists to confront the dangers of engaging with sources through social media networks and the digital footprint they leave behind.
  • Supporting and assisting journalists who are confronted with graphic or otherwise disturbing content. Maintaining an organizational culture that enables journalists to seek help or speak out when they need to protect their mental health.

Founding supporters

Additional supporters


Eric Carvin (ONA Board Member, Founder and Co-Chair, ONA News Ethics Committee), Mandy Jenkins (ONA Board Member, Co-Chair ONA News Ethics Committee), Fergus Bell, (Co-lead ONA UGC Ethics Group), Sue Allan (Maclean’s), Madeleine Bair (WITNESS), Richard Clark (Newson6), Hannah Cushman (AP), Sam Dubberley (Eyewitness Media Hub), Mark Frankel (BBC), Alina Hartounian (AP), Saleem Khan (INVSTG8.NET), Sophie Lyon (TVNZ), Joy Mayer (University of Missouri), David Milikin (AFP), Andrew Mills (Northwestern), Sona Patel (New York Times), Asha Phillips (Verily), Angela Pimenta (Projor.org), Jenni Sargent (Eyewitness Media Hub), Ingeborg Volan (NRK), Claire Wardle (Eyewitness Media Hub)

Supporting documentation and research

For further reading and research on the subject of user-generated content and eyewitness media, please see the below resources that were used as a strong base for this code:

Guiding Principles for Journalists – Eyewitness Media Hub

Ethical Guidelines: Using Eyewitness Videos In Human Rights Reporting & Advocacy – WITNESS