There’s a flood of information about what’s going on in the nationwide protests against police brutality. Snippets of news go viral, one tweet or clip at a time: a thing a protester does, a thing a police officer does. Before you share anything, take a minute to ask yourself these questions.
Is the information accurate?
Breaking news events are often hijacked by accounts that want to share things for their own reasons. They may share photos or videos that are not from the current news events, or that are real but miscaptioned.
Use reverse image searches to verify where a photo comes from, and check with local reporters to get the real story about what’s going on. If you don’t have a few minutes to stop and evaluate before you share something, then maybe you shouldn’t share it.
Even when something appears to be confirmed, make sure that the confirmation is itself reliable. For example, a video taken last week showed a person breaking windows and then walking away, and soon the video was being shared alongside screenshots of a conversation with somebody who says they recognised the person. But how do you know who created that screenshot? Beware anything you can’t verify.
Don’t share personal information, including protesters’ faces
Protesters are often targeted by police or by other people online. Do not share identifying information, including what their faces look like, unless you know that they gave permission. It only takes a minute to blur faces or to put an emoji sticker over a face (Instagram Stories is an easy way to do this, and then you can save the image without posting as a story.)
Police and elected officials need to be accountable to the public, so it’s probably best not to blur their faces.
Say what’s in a video
Especially for violent videos, don’t just share without context or with an empty statement like “look at this.” People deserve to know what they’re about to watch, and there is enough violence in the world without springing more examples of it on people who have seen or experienced enough. Describe what’s going on, even if it’s just a few words to say who’s doing what. Your description will also help you and others to find the post later when searching.
Describing what’s in a video is also helpful for people who cannot watch or hear the video (like people who may be blind and using screen readers, for example.) If you post a photo, use the alt text feature on Twitter or its equivalent on other platforms, even if that just means putting a brief description in the caption or a comment.
Go to the official source
If you’re sharing a call for help or donations, check that it’s legit by going to the organisation’s website or verified account. For example, there’s a fake Venmo floating around pretending to be taking donations for a Minneapolis bail fund.
Consider the balance of messages you’re sharing
It’s not enough to decide what to share one post at a time. Your overall contribution to the timeline matters too. What narratives are you supporting or tearing down? Are you confirming stereotypes? Are you mindful of how you’re directing people’s attention?
For example, are you sharing nothing but images of violence? What effect does that have on your followers? On the flip side, are you skipping all the uncomfortable stuff and only sharing feel-good stories about cops assisting protesters or joining in? I won’t tell you what to share, but I will ask that you think about the messages that you’re sending, and whether you’re communicating what you intend.