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Indian News Companies Demand Access To Social Media Accounts

Journalists Forced To Hand Over Passwords


If there is one guiding principle behind social media, it is that your voice is your own. Your tweets may be misjudged and your Facebook updates may be dull, but they are still all yours. Indeed, it is essential for many companies who hope to utilise the big data which social networks gather for commercial purposes that such information is an accurate record of individuals’ expressions.

Quite apart from this, basic freedom of speech means that there is a clear ethical standpoint at stake in the idea that people should be allowed to express themselves freely through whatever channels they choose. This is why the Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd.’s – which publishes many of India’s largest news sources, including the Times of India and the Economic Times – new policy forcing employees to hand over the passwords for all their social media accounts has kicked up such a fuss.



BCCL is demanding that journalists relinquish their Twitter and Facebook passwords and allow the paper to use them as they see fit – primarily to act as promotional tools for the organisation. Strangely, the company is also insisting that journalists are not to use personal accounts for sharing links to stories; they must set up official accounts under their own names over which the company has control, or they can convert existing personal accounts into corporate ones.

Perhaps more worryingly, the company retains the right to continue operating these accounts under employees’ names even after they have left the organisation. In an era when media outlets are becoming increasingly politicised, the potential for the outlets like the Times of India to continue trading on the reputation of a journalist who may have left for any number of reasons (perhaps they disagree with the newspaper’s policy on social media use) is troubling.

The announcement has incited a backlash on Twitter, with the hashtag #twitterpassswords trending in the subcontinent as users pointed out the irony of a newspaper apparently not understanding the concept of freedom of speech.

The decision is made even more relevant by the recent push by BCCL to adapt a series of Western media sources to the Indian market, including Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Business Insider, Ad Age, and the Huffington Post. There’s no word yet on whether employees at these organisations will be subject to the same rules.



There has been little response to the new rules thus far, according to inside sources; certainly it does not appear as though journalists are acquiescing before the exact nature of the policy is made clear and they have had a chance to confront management on the issue.

The policy is, clearly, misjudged. Quite apart from the morality of the issue, it demonstrates a singular failure to recognise the nature of modern media. Sucheta Dalal, a journalist who left the Times of India regarding disagreements over the paper accepting payment for the inclusion of certain features, has close to a million followers on Twitter – almost a third of the Times of India’s daily circulation. Peoples’ trust increasingly lies not with institutions but with individuals, and thanks to social media those people are now able to make their views heard globally. If BCCL thinks that it can fight this by demanding control over these avenues of distribution, they have even less understanding of the technology and attitudes involved than was first apparent.



Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Indian News Companies Demand Access To Social Media Accounts Reviewed by Anonymous on Friday, August 29, 2014 Rating: 5
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