Social media and aviation safety. Part 2.

Reports of aviation accidents and incidents and occurrence reports vary greatly in quantity and quality. Improvements have been made, as legislation has demanded basic data be recorded and retained.

Nevertheless, the one-line narrative is still with us. These reports are frustrating for safety analysts. If a bland statement about an aviation occurrence is received a couple of weeks after an event it can be almost impossible to classify. The good that social media can do is to supplement official information.

In most cases, mobile phone video taken by a passenger or onlooker can be checked for veracity. It needs to have the characteristics that confirm that it was taken at the time and place of the event it depicts. Photographs often have location, picture size, resolution, and device information.

It’s as well to recognise that this work can’t be taken for granted. There is work for aviation safety analysts to do verifying information. Images can be edited by effects that create an exagerated sense of drama.

Image copywrite does have to be considered. Professional photographers make it clear that their work is protected. This is often stamped on the material in some manner.

Impromptu videoing of an aviation incident, that may involve the person taking the video changes its status once its launched on social media. At least that is my understanding of the legal paperwork that few people ever read, namely the common clauses of End-User License Agreements. 

So, advice might be, to try to avoid copyright infringement it’s always a good idea to credit the source of the material used. Using copyed material in good faith is no defence for ignoring ownership.

The pursuit of aviation safety can be argued to be the pursuit of the greater public good. Unfortunately, the lawyers of some newsgathering organisations will not give the time of day to anyone who argues that they are in pursuit of the greater good.

Suprisingly, the subject of who is a press reporter or newsgathering organisation is vague in a lot of national legal frameworks. Protecting free speech is a strong case for not drawing too many boundaries but a complete free for all has a downside as “truth” goes out the window.

On another subject, privacy is a sticky one. Where people are identifiable in randomly taken pcitures or video of accidents and incidents there is currently no protection.

Again, there are questions to be answered in relation to use of social media derived safety information.


Example: Dramatic footage shows firefighters tackling fire on British Airways passenger plane at Copenhagen airport. [Dailymotion embeded video].

An Online Safety Bill in the UK will shake up the regulation of material on-line even if its not designed to address the issue raised in my blog. Online Safety Bill: factsheet – GOV.UK (

Author: johnwvincent

Our man in Southern England

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