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Immediacy Illusion: Roles in the Newsroom that Should not Overlook Social Media

When we look at a newscast on the TV set we immediately feel there is some type of mediation. There is an anchorman or anchorwoman sitting in front of a teleprompter reading the news and presenting stories that have already been produced. We don’t see the cameraman and have no idea who he is. Almost everything is completely planned in terms of how the show will run. As members of the audience, we listen to the story from our side (the television set). I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to feel any sense of presence there, neither from the reporters, nor from us as active members.

The opposite happens with social media. When reporters use social media both them and us are present at the location they report from. There is almost no mediation, or at least we don’t feel it. We feel we’re part of the story; that we’re right there with them, like when we play video games. The difference is in fact that physical presence which allows journalists to show us different angles, unedited scenes, and to portray stories from their own perspectives. Thus, social media give newsrooms a chance to morph traditional storytelling into an innovative and creative form. Also, social media give news correspondents, cameraman, and beat editors the opportunity to work collaboratively to distribute content outside the television screen in a way that makes audiences feel that presence. This is what I will immediacy illusion.

Even though the following roles are different, what they have in common is that presence. This is why they should social media:

Cameraman at TV News:

  • This is our chance to meet them because we never do with TV news. We only see their names on the credits at the end.
  • Their technical knowledge about filming, video and audio can drive them to produce excellent material for platforms like Vine, Twitter, and Periscope.
  • They can present a different perspective while they are on the go. What we see through their eyes on a TV newscast usually follows someone else’s instructions or direction. If they use social media, they can step away from that role and even do their own directing.
  • They can develop relationships with audiences who are only used to see the reporter or news correspondent as the “face” of the news organization they represent. Thus, they can present their human side on social media because we can meet them, their families and what they do when they are not on the go.
  • Because they are the eyes of what we see, they may see potential in some stories that can potentially represent new material for reporters.
  • It’s possible to give a voice to someone who doesn’t have one (usually). The example below is about a cameraman who went further, even made a silent movie about himself and posted it on YouTube!

Example:Paul Martin (@ukcameraman):

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He is a freelance cameraman (news, sport, and documentary) to news and broadcasters in the UK, including BBC and CNN. He uses Twitter, Google+, email list, and has a blog. He is basically building his own brand.


  • He shows his face (which we normally don’t see) so that the audience knows who is talking to us. Also, he gets to set a tone and voice (funny sometimes), so we can meet him at a more personal level. Finally, he shares part of the normal life he lives:Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 5.32.55 PM


  • He gives the audience teasers about what type of live coverage he is doing on a particular day.Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 5.28.31 PM
  • He gives us access to behind the scenes production shots and shows audiences editing equipment and personnel they usually don’t see:Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 5.32.23 PM
  • He presents a series of stories about things that happen to cameramen, giving us access to how their day it’s like.

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Blog: (The Amazing and Unbelievable Adventures of a TV News Cameraman and Underwater Rat Throttling Champion

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  • Blog posts are a compilation about cameramen related news and views, but also about life on the road, like standing in the rain and cold for long periods of time. Some of these include:

The result is a blog, not only about technical stuff, but also about a day in the life of a cameraman. Honestly, it’s the first time I see something like this, and now that I think about it, cameramen have a lot to talk about. He speaks casually, straight to the point, no holds barred.

Paul Martin is a great example of how we can feel the presence of people we usually ignore. I think he found a perfect angle and he is one of the few I was able to find who does it well. He gives us that presence illusion instantly through social media.

Foreign news correspondent:

  • Foreign news correspondents are in charge of presenting audiences with stories about what happens in other countries, including war and politics. This means they present us with reports from places usually nowhere near us; completely unfamiliar. Because they may represent the only way audiences can learn about these matters, their use of social media becomes more important.
  • Social media provide for different ways in which these correspondents can distribute content in different forms, written, audio or video. Because there are so many platforms available, this means there are more options to present different parts of a story. For example, most of us haven’t been to Syria or Ukraine. Our concept of these places is constructed with what we see on traditional media. But we can construct better images about these places if foreign correspondents take the time to portray them on social media. This can be done with hard news, as well as soft news like below. There is no time for this on a newscast, right? Max Seddon is a foreign news correspondent in Russia.

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  • Social media is timeless. When Nick Robertson is reporting from the Vatican, where there is a time difference, we don’t have to wait for the newscast to see what’s going on. If he uses Instagram at 3:40am, my time, to post a photo or video, I’m able see it when I wake up the next day. I will always have access, even though I have to look for it (in Twitter’s case, like the example below).Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 6.02.23 PM
  • They usually interview government officials. With social media, there is no time constraint regarding how much you can say in an established amount of time. In a newscast, there’s a limited amount of time. This is not the case with social. On Twitter, you can present stories divided in more than 1 or 2 posts, even with the 140-character limit.
  • A 30-second story on a newscast can morph into a 4-day event on social media with much more detail. When the Pope visited Sarajevo, Nick Robertson created a sequence of posts on different days narrating what was going on. This is very effective in order to build expectation and keep the audience alert.

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  • Social media give these correspondents the ability to use pictures they take, which may resonate more with the audience because they look like pictures we can all take, thus we can relate. Someone like us is making it possible for us to be at that place with him or her.

I would like to conclude by saying that news beat editors should also use social media. I spent quite some time searching for social media accounts of local beat editors. Sadly, only a few have presence on social and the content is in the form of general headlines about breaking news. They have both the small and big picture about a particular area; they have access to a lot of information. However, I found that they prefer to keep their role in traditional media, rather than capitalizing on social to distribute a form of content that may be valuable to audiences. They are losing the opportunity to capitalize on the immediacy factor and their presence to make people like me feel part of their role as journalists.

BuzzFeed Logo

How BuzzFeed Creates Social News

BuzzFeed Logo

The Real Problem with Clickbait presents a side of this issue that maybe we’ve heard before: it’s basically a game that tricks people to take action and click on a story after reading a very powerful headline that makes some kind of promise. I believe this is clicking for the sakes of having a best-case scenario related to metrics: a very high number of clicks. What’s the value of that? Nothing. This is why content writers engaged in these types of actions are also tricked, in my honest opinion. I understand the part about relying on advertising for revenue, but at that point in which readers get that it’s a trick and click less, what else besides metrics could be the benefit for companies that engage in over promising and then deliver less?

BuzzFeed’s value is just the opposite. It has a content formula and a storytelling technique that move people to actually share content to the point it becomes viral, which is the whole point about its concept. I found this short interview with Eric Harris, BuzzFeed’s Executive Vice President, in which he summarizes this by saying: “You can trick somebody to click but you can’t click somebody to share.” That sounds about right. He says they combine science and art. Science is the analytics part they handle, optimizing for sharing, and experimenting different things. Art is to get people to have an emotion, like inspiration or nostalgia, which gets them to share content.

Sharing happens organically by not over promising. My take on this is that this happens because the type of content BuzzFeed shares is that which makes you comparable to something. Content is sharable not only for its informational aspect, but because it moves people and they identify with it. It’s an experiential feeling. Why do you think BuzzFeed’s content is sharable? This is seen in most of the quizzes, lists, and news pieces. One example is in one of the assigned readings, the What State do you Actually Belong In?, which had 3.7 million  interactions.

When you read the headline, it makes you think whether you’re living in the right place, where you belong. Sense of belonging is “a human need,” according to Psychology Today. “Some find it at church, some with friends, some with family, and some on Twitter or social media.” BuzzFeed creates some quizzes, like this one, which move people to complete and share. They do the quizzes because they are curious to find out if the results are accurate, according to their own self-notion. They share them in order to compare results. They are able to create a whole experience with which people can identify. The results usually sound like self-help messages, trying to look at the positive side of the results. In my case, this test says that I belong in Massachusetts, where I just came from 2 days ago. “You’re a unique person, and someone who doesn’t care what others think.”
Readers also identify with stories, like Eric Harris says, that appeal to the emotional side.

Stepping aside from the quizzes, take a look at A Cop Who Had To Tell A Teen His Parents Had Been Killed Showed Up At His Graduation. This story, in the BuzzFeed News section has 1.9 million views. When you take a look at the headline, basically you understand what the whole story is about. BuzzFeed stories function like little novels, in which you see a lot of visual content and news told in the form of captions for images or videos. In this story, you see the headline attracts the younger BuzzFeed audience with these elements:

  • Teens
  • Parents that were killed
  • Graduation

Readers identify with these types of situations. They experience feelings when they read this type of content, they feel sorry, happy for the young kid who graduated and had this cop “standing in his parent’s place.” They identify with this situation because this is something that can happen to them. They also see the cop as a hero. While the audience shares its friends, they create new “movements” or stories on social media, in which they begin to show support for the student, as well as the cop. The word then spreads. By combining content, headlines, and simple, short storytelling techniques, BuzzFeed creates experiences.

Do Social Media Erase Memories?

buzzworthy creations, social media

If there is something very evident regarding social media is how much power they have given people to spread messages, which may end up having both positive and negative consequences. We are no longer passive members of an audience receiving and processing information. We have the power to create, distribute, and control messages; we have the ability to make our voice so strong that in a matter of hours, on one side we have one business forced to close and on the other we have a funding campaign to make up for the financial loss, as a result of closing the business. This is the case of Memories Pizza, an Indiana- based restaurant who reportedly was the first to say it would refuse to cater a gay wedding, protected by Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). I live in Puerto Rico and if it weren’t for social media, I would have never learn about the existence of Memories Pizza.

In a matter of minutes, people headed to review websites like Yelp! and social networks like Twitter to express their opinion for and against the restaurant’s position. There are 194 reviews on Yelp! written in two days; there are 1,046 reviews on the “not recommended” section of Yelp!, meaning these ratings were not factored in the overall star rating, based on reliability and quality, among other factors. The content of these comments ranges from supportive messages like “I support Memories Pizza” to others questioning their position and talking about how horrible its pizza is in a effort to undermine its reputation. The results of these comments, and many others on social networks like Twitter, combined with offline threats, forced the owners to close the restaurant. This is how its Yelp! page looks today:

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On Twitter,#MemoriesPizza appeared in Twitter’s top ten most popular terms, with tweets both supporting and condemning the business for their public stance.
This is one of the tweets from an assistant softball coach, who was later suspended from her position:


The message constitutes a threat, meaning that there were repercussions and local authorities are investigating this matter. This is another example of how people have a voice on social media, as a result of the limitless space there is and the absence of editing. Each person is on his or her own and may choose to post the content they deem appropriate.

The restaurant’s website was also hacked and someone changed the background of the homepage to rainbow-colored and the message, “call us to cater your gay wedding!” This is more support to the idea of how much control people have on the Internet. This means both control to hack into these websites, as well as control of the message itself.

Yet, not everything is negative for Memories Pizza. On the other side, there’s an army of people who are concerned about the economic implications of having to close the business and are encouraging others to donate money through a crowdfunding platform, GoFundMe. This platform allows people to raise money for events and other causes. As of right now, in just two days, the Support Memories Pizza account has raised $538.599. This is an example of how to use social media to put your cause in front of an audience, expecting people will be moved to take action. Social media have the power to move a lot of people in record time, in this case, 18,333 in two days. While the increasing amount of threats to this family moved them to close the business, this side of of social media must not be forgotten: huge masses of people join together to show support, it doesn’t matter which side you’re in.

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While the future of Memories Pizza is uncertain, we must take a look at these reactions as a way to show, not only how fast people can react and create movements on social media, but also how they have brought forward the potential to make a difference. For good or for bad, it seems like these memories created by the thousands of people who had something to say about Memories Pizza, will not be erased. Something happens=people react and, with social media, it’s permanent.

My Fellow Ello

Ello’s promise is that it will not make money from selling ads or user data. The anti-Facebook social network launched last year with these promises; to make these even tighter, ir converted its legal structure to a Public Benefits Corporation. This means that Ello is a for-profit organization, but an essential part of its philosophy to benefit society. The company sees money and profit as a means to make social impact. Ello wants to provide users the opportunity to connect without other companies seeing them as products that can be bought and sold. According to Ello Doesn’t Have Ads, “Collecting and selling your personal information, reading your posts, and mapping your social connections for profit is unethical. Every new feature on an ad-driven network is either a new way to gather more data about you (which can be sold), or show you more ads (which are auctioned), or both.” Thus, Ello’s motto is to do the right thing by making the product beneficial to users themselves, not to other companies. In this way, we see a company reflecting what care ethics is about.

Without advertising, the company says it will make money out of premium extra features, like profile customization. This model is not new and, in some cases, it has proven to be profitable. As a matter of fact, it’s widely used in the gaming industry, known as the “freemium model,” in which users play for free, but pay for extras. The concept is if you want to get the best rewards or features, you have to pay money; users pay to enhance the experience. Clash of Clans and Game of War: Fire Age made enough money last year to buy Super Bowl ads. Sounds good, right? It’s important to note that only 1.5% of freemium revenue comes from these purchases. Also, this model doesn’t mean that these apps are free from advertising. As a matter of fact, according to a survey by App Annie and IDC on 2013, 50% of app revenue comes from in-app advertising and that percentage is expected to increase in 2017. There are two possible scenarios regarding data mining here:

  • It doesn’t mean that no one is using data; it’s used internally to enhance user experience
  • With the information above, we see the success of the gaming apps does imply using advertising as an important source of revenue, thus user data is sold.

In my opinion, this model might work for gaming, but not for social, especially if the social network offering an ad-free experience has no attractive features and functionalities that may motivate me to try it or even consider leaving Facebook because that one is better. In order for Ello to profit from the extras, it needs to increase its user base. As of October, they had 1 million users, to which they just added 250,000 more. The rollout has been limited because the platform is unfinished and they have decided to add features along the way. They have missed a very important thing, if not the most: the app version. Considering the growth of mobile usage, how come they leave this for 8 months after launching?

Just recently, Ello added the ability to post videos from other sources like YouTube. In Ello Is Becoming a Real Social Network, Even as Tech Media Pronounces It Dead, John Koetsier touches on this point by saying that this new ability to share video does include ads, not from Ello, but from YouTube. I wonder what platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud will be able to do regarding advertising, considering the fact that they will be able to know where traffic comes from. Technically, Ello is not selling information, but it’s providing an open forum for others to take data from there. Ello was able to tackle this with a feature on the settings menu, which you can turn off to avoid embedded media.

I think at this point, this limits the user’s ability to connect organically; to create and celebrate life just like Ello wants. It’s a cool option and it strengthens their position about no ads, but then it’s also a barrier for sharing information. If I’m an artist and want to share my video from YouTube with my friends, then it means not everyone will see them. What will happen when people are able to use hashtags? Doesn’t this give outside sources access to content related to a hashtag? I wonder up to what point can they keep this promise, when content like hashtags are part of a universal database.

I honestly love Ello’s philosophy and I like the intention of creating a company with a sustainable model that wants to do social good by intending to protect people and providing a platform strictly for connecting with other people, not products. The freemium model they expect to use for added features and customization sounds like a great idea, but why will people pay for something that they can have for free in the platform which billions of people use? In order to capitalize on this, they must focus on what’s different and try to make it really different. If there is the equivalent of a newsfeed, what feature does my product have that makes me different? Snapchat and Instagram did this. They both have feeds, but Snapchat decided to erase content and Instagram decided to stick to enhancing the photo sharing process. It’s a matter of differentiation…..and launching the app as soon as possible. As soon as they are able to increase its user base, we will be able to see if these promises also result in a sustainable company.

I think people will react positively, just like me, initially. I loved the idea and the concept, but once I got a chance to play with the platform, I couldn’t find anything interesting or too different, so I never used it. Also, it will take a while to see if there will be consequences for all social media, but I can say it makes me think about Path, another social network which tried to deliver a similar ad-free promise to protect privacy, but with a price people were not willing to pay. I think there is a fine line between protecting and not protecting users on social media. They’re all businesses and they need to make money, sometimes sacrificing what they initially say they will protect.

The Act of Moderating on Social Media

“A single tweet can create a ripple that expands into big waves, whether harmful or helpful.”-Daniel Threfall

In How to Effectively Moderate Social Media, Threfall makes this statement, which helps explain the importance of social media moderation. The purpose of moderation is to lead conversations. On social media, this involves keeping an eye on what people are saying on our social media pages, so that we can keep a safe, peaceful, and collaborative environment, rather than one characterized by offensive, potentially dangerous, and out-of-line comments. The role of the social media moderator is monitor, track, listen, and respond, when necessary and according to a company’s social media policy. In the end, the aim should be to develop and maintain relationships, so the strategy should be to take actions that work in favor of this, rather than against. The social media moderator faces many challenges, depending of the situation. There are also many possible ways to address different comments, as well as unlimited choices, including deciding not to respond, deleting a comment, and responding publicly or privately. There are also many choices regarding what to say and how to say it, in terms of tone and language.

Below please find two hypothetical examples of audience and customer comments and my approach regarding moderating these. My recommendation is to respond to both online, right at the place they customer posted the comment. This, in my opinion, serves to respond to others who might have the same concern. Also, it’s a way for companies to transform a negative situation into a positive one. I think it’s the opportunity for a company to demonstrate how serious it is about its business.

Example #1

Customer comment to a hotel: “I am disgusted about the state of your restaurant on 1467 Justin Kings Way. Empty tables weren’t cleared and full of remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

My response: “Hello (insert customer name). Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We sincerely apologize for this situation at our restaurant during your visit. Cleanliness is one of our of top priorities and I can assure you that steps are being taken with members of our team to address and correct this issue, so that it does not happen again. (Insert customer name), we value you as a customer and would like to take this opportunity to invite you to come back to our restaurant and give us another chance. If you wish to contact me directly, you can call the restaurant (phone number) and ask for Celeste. Have a great day!”

Example #2:

Message to a mainstream news network: “Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.” (Let us assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides.)

My response: “Hello (customer name). Thank you for taking the time to write us about how you feel regarding our reporting about the Middle East. Our mission is to conduct reporting that is characterized by impartiality, fairness, and justness. We value the members of our audience and would like you to continue tuning in to our station. Please feel feel to contact me directly by email (insert email address) if you would have additional questions or concerns. Thank you and have a great day.”

Both responses are honest, genuine and address the specific areas which are under attack. Also, both mention how the company values those two areas as part each company’s mission and vision. Finally, both responses offer an opportunity to take the conversation outside, if there are other areas that need to be addressed. Since both user comments address sensitive issues like restaurant cleanliness and biased reporting, I think it’s best to address it publicly in general terms and then offline. Address the areas in such a way that people acknowledge someone is listening to them, but never go into too much detail either, because that may irritate the user even more.  Responding in a genuine, sincere, and authentic way yields respect.

Why I trust Oprah

I trust Oprah Winfrey, both online and offline. She earned by trust many years ago because, not only she is genuine and transparent, but also she is intimate, helpful, knowledgable, and reliable. I’ll add to this equation that she is one of the most selfless persons I’ve ever known. Yes, she has a huge media empire that makes a lot of money, but she uses that fortune to help others and to touch our lives by handing us the tools that we can use to be better persons; to grow as compassionate human beings. I trust her so much that I think what she says is what’s right. Oprah is committed to making a better world. The first webcast that I ever saw and the one that helped me get through a very rough time when I lost my dad was Oprah and Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth. My relationship with Oprah started when she had the show and now extends to social media networks. I follow Oprah on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

We discussed Steve Rayson’s trust formula, which is as follows:

TRUST= Authority x Helpfulness x Intimacy/Self promotion)

Taking a look at each of these variables, I can say that they are present at Oprah’s social media accounts. Let’s begin with authority, which means someone is knowledgable and demonstrates it, in this case through quality content. For example, on Facebook, Oprah has devoted content during the past month to Selma, a movie she produced about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about his fight against discrimination of black people being able to register to vote during 1960’s. The content we see is meant to create awareness about this situation by educating us. Her knowledge about this, which is important to her because we’ve seen her advocating for equal rights, moved her to launch this campaign on Facebook, which is educational and is how she demonstrates not only how much she knows about it, but how much is her commitment to this cause. She posted this video just this week, Because of Dr. King, in which many people expressed how his fight and achievements influenced their lives:

Oprah has the power to summon and call together a huge number of people so that they can show their gratitude. Judging by the amount of fans Oprah has (10 million+) and most of the responses to this message, we can see how someone with authority moved people:


In terms of intimacy, I can say that on social platforms, Oprah has opened the doors to her home, the most intimate place. She has also allowed us to see how she spends Christmas, when she picks fruit and what she’s having for dinner. She is warm and friendly enough to make us part of her daily life. Another example, is how committed she is to meditation, which is a great tool that portrays is important to her, thus she shares how it makes her human. Finally, intimacy is also about sharing what’s meaningful to you. Here are come examples of how this intimacy is reflected on her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts:




In terms of helpfulness, there is no doubt that Oprah’s mission is to help others, and on her social media platform she continues to do that. She shares information about the multiple projects she runs to help others. Some may see this as self promotion, but I see it as a way to ask people to contribute to the lives of those in need. For example, in collaboration with Teavana, she launched the Oprah Chai Tea last year to support educational opportunities for young people. This item is sold at Starbucks, so she has dedicated some efforts on social media to promote this, which has a bigger end result than just making money. Take a look at the post below in which she personally went to Starbucks to enjoy the drink and posted the photo. Because we are talking about help, please note the comments people wrote and how one of Oprah’s community manager took the time to reply. One of them is a question to which they replied.




I think Oprah actively participates on her Twitter account and engages with people. It’s not a customer service forum, so there is not so much she can help with. Still, she takes time to respond. In the example below, she responds Tallulah to a post about the Chai tea, with a comment about sharing it with a friend. This is a way of helping too!


I could continue to give examples, but I’m sure by this time, it’s very clear how the reasons I trust her are reflected on how she behaves on the platforms, thus bringing me closer to her. She promotes her meditation sessions with Deepak Chopra, for example, but they are all meant to help us grow as human beings. I say it again, I trust Oprah.

The Rules According to Pinterest

Pinterest’s mission is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting” via a global platform of inspiration and idea sharing. Its Terms of Service include the Acceptable Use Policy, which follows a different format regarding the rules people must follow when using social networks. We have evaluated Facebook’s, Twitter’s and Ello’s terms and conditions. In these three, the rules consist of a list of what we can’t do.

What’s different with Pinterest is that after each rule, there is both a short and long explanation of what the rule means, as well as examples (in the form of pins) of the types of posts they allow. Below is the first example of one of the sections of this document:

Stuff you can’t post

You aren’t allowed to post anything that…..

  • Is sexually explicit or pornographic, exploits or presents minors in a sexual way, or promotes adult sexual services

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Why did Pinterest feel ethically responsible to elaborate on each one of the rules in such a way that people understand the message more easily? Why did they want to ensure that this message in particular, regarding the rules is clear? I would say their intention is to obtain consensus from users regarding what surrounds each matter (in this case nudity) in order to maintain the sense of community that we clearly see on Pinterest communications. This document is different that the Terms of Service, which has a language and serious/legal tone. Terms of Service was probably written by a lawyer. The Acceptable Use Policy was written by a member of the Pinterest community. Your neighbor is talking to you, not a lawyer.

When you see the title of this section (Stuff you can’t post), you immediately get that Pinterest is talking to a friend. You’re still going to get the don’t do this format of the rules, but in a more informal tone. The short version is for just like me who don’t like to read and the long version is more poetic, honest, and clear. Pinterest’s concern with these types of pins is the well-being of the community. They say they don’t mean to define art (after they mention that artistic nude photographs are ok). The company wants to make it clear where the boundaries are and clarifies that what the want to do what’s good for its community. “We focus on what might make images too explicit for our community.” The implication of this is based on utilitarianism. Lets do things that keep the most people happy. By taking a look at the language, you see they want to protect their relationships (care ethics) with their followers by carefully explaining what they need to avoid. They are using pins, which is the essence of this social networks. In what other possible way could they have explained this better? I’m not sure there is another way! On the other side, going into this amount of detail to explain something may represent more material people have to question the company; more space for interpretation.

Here is another example regarding pins that contain any information or content that’s illegal:

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