BBC slammed over Facebook training

The BBC has come under fire for a costly social network training course.

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The BBC has been criticised for sending staff on training courses to learn how to use sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

The BBC said the "Making the Web Work for You" course would help staff "develop effective and comprehensive internet research and social media skills". The voluntary course costs 100 per person.

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The scheme has already come under fire for being a waste of tax payers' money. Conservative MP Phillip Davis called the plans "pathetic," while a BBC sound engineer told The Sun: "It's an astonishing waste of money."

Investigative journalist Murray Dick, who used to teach journalism training courses for the BBC, told IT PRO that despite the criticisms leveled at the BBC, social networks are becoming increasingly important distributors of news and an essential tool in the journalists' arsenal.

"Social networks are also now a key driver in how news is distributed. A significant amount of traffic to major news sites (up to a third in some cases) is now generated via social networks and recommendation sites including Facebook and Twitter," he argued.

Dick said that the BBC's training course will likely encompass far more than simply setting up user profiles, or searching for stories. Social networks, he argues, present new ethical dilemmas that journalists must contend with.

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"Equally, the notion of what is 'public' and 'private' space within social networks can raise all sorts of difficult questions something shared between 'friends'who haveprivate social network accounts can be copied and pasted and sent to a journalist, without the context in which those words were written. A decision on whether or not to run a story based on such material can be very hard to call, and if called wrong, can be costly."

Dick pointed out that a lack of familiarity with sites such as Twitter has already left some journalists red-faced. It was only last year that a number of news sites, including the The Telegraph, were duped into believing a fake David Milliband Twitter account was genuine.

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