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Social media, surveillance and news work: On the apps promising journalists a “crystal ball”

Thurman, N. (2017). Social media, surveillance and news work: On the apps promising journalists a “crystal ball”. Digital Journalism, 6(1), pp. 76-97. doi: 10.1080/21670811.2017.1345318


Social media platforms are becoming an indispensable resource for journalists. Their use involves both direct interaction with the platforms themselves and, increasingly, the use of specialist third-party apps to find, filter, and follow content and contributors. This article explores some of the ways social media platforms, and their technological ecosystems, are infusing news work. A range of platforms and apps—including Geofeedia, Spike, and Twitter—were critically examined, and their use by trainee journalists (N=81) analysed. The results reveal how journalists can—and do—surveil social network users and their content via sophisticated, professional apps that are also utilised by the police and security forces. While journalists recognise the value of such apps in news work, they also have concerns, including about privacy and popularism. And although the participants in this study thought the apps they used could help with verification, there were warning signs that an over-reliance on the technology could develop, dulling journalists’ critical faculties.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Attached is an Author Accepted Manuscript and an Author Original Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Digital Journalism and to be available online at
Publisher Keywords: algorithms, artificial intelligence, computational journalism, geolocation, social media monitoring, surveillance, third-party apps, verification
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
SWORD Depositor:
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