Tag Archives: NDRMCC

Online Advocacy: Disasters, Ethical Fundraising, and the Social Media


I’ve accidentally seen a picture taken at the flooded area in Mindanao (due to typhoon ‘Sendong‘) yesterday. The image was that of a father cuddling his young  child who perished in that catastrophic event. The image broke my heart, and even if I’ve only seen the photograph in passing, I just can’t  seem to take the image off my mind. Photographs taken on the aftermath of disastrous events really gets into me, that’s for sure.

The disturbing thing about the picture-in-question was to see it being linked repeatedly and re-tweeted for various purposes. In twitter, some ‘tweeples’ attached it for fundraising tweets to call for donations that will finance a relief operation to help the victims in flooded areas in the southern part of the Philippines. Others just re-tweeted the photo (perhaps) to express their emotional distress over the scenario.

Those reactions over the net could be nothing but normal for some people; but  it bothered me a lot.

I asked a well-known journalist through a tweet if the father gave consent for that picture to be published online; and she responded, explaining that  “in news reporting, you normally capture moments. No need to get permission.” I accepted the logic knowing that it came from a journalist’s perspective; but twitter is a social network, is it safe to assume then that journalistic rules are the  legitimate rules to be applied in social media? I can’t help but ask –

Is there a difference between paparazzi going after movie stars & overly zealous ‘netizens‘ sharing sensitive pictures like that of a father w/ his dead child on his arms (him, captured with overwhelming grief) online? 

Obviously, my concern about the photo linkage is more than the ‘legality’/acceptability” of the practice from the perspective of media and the law. Aside from the ‘paparazzi’ ‘similarity – the photograph, the circumstance that happened before that image was taken, the manner of which it was circulated over the internet, the purpose of why netizens would link the photograph to a tweet, a comment or a blog post — all these (among others) evoke so many questions in my mind involving coalescing and entangled spheres involved in social media – most especially the ethical implications of such.

It is understandable that people respond to disasters “emotionally’ — seldom that ethical considerations would take precedence over people’s desire to help others. What’s good about it is that it shows the capacity of people to do great, good things to help another human in dire need; the other side of it is the tendency of such reactions to have a ‘not-so-good’ consequence.

I’m not yet sure if there’s already an “Ethical Guideline for Social Media in the Philippines” (I’d appreciate any info that readers may want to share about it). I strongly recommend that an overall – “rule book” be made highlighting ethical manners of using photographs taken in disaster situations in lieu of any form of online fundraising/social activism effort

With this in mind, I initially raised this concern through a tweet; knowing that people may tend 2 get over zealous especially when one feels that need of wanting  to help, that I very much understand — but a little ethical consideration  on how to use the social media in our efforts to help raise awareness,  or as we try to spearhead a humanitarian initiative to help victims of disasters is also important.

 Fundraising efforts for any kind of relief operation is a noble and a laudable act, no question about that. But I also wish that each of us may remember to not simply ‘emotionally respond’ to such unfortunate events. Rational and ethical response is a must, so as to avoid unwittingly and unnecessarily exploiting (further) the unfortunate victims/casualties of disasters and calamities - – this could happen without us knowing it.

May we not forget that the ones who’d perished in disasters STILL deserve dignified treatment from all of us – and there should be no excuse for us (of not giving such to them). We have to be careful as well that our over zealousness will not violate fundamental rights (i.e. privacy, issues re: informed consent, etc.) of individuals. It would be best to ensure that our good intentions will still be within the bounds of acceptable, ethical grounds, and that we’d do nothing that can be construed as intrusive and invasive to people’s and families’ very personal spaces and predicaments.


18 December 2011