About SCARS Publishing on RomanceScamsNOW.com
- Owner: Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc., a Florida Nonprofit Corporation.
- Publisher in Chief: Dr. Tim McGuinness, Managing Director, Board Member, and SCARS Officer
- Press Contact: Debby Montgomery Johnson, Director, Board Member, and SCARS Officer
- Editorial Advisory Board: Vianey Gonzalez, and others.
We will revise our website and articles as needed to maintain the correctness, competency, and accuracy of our contact. We cannot promise to notify our readers when this happens, though you will find updated articles in our listing of updated posts.
SCARS holds its journalists, reporters, writers, content curators, video producers, commentators, editors, and all other employees, volunteers, contributors or contractors (hereafter referred to as content creators) to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism. These ethical and editorial standards have been created to guide content creators to create an extremely trustworthy publication for our audience. In addition, we are publishing these standards so that the public can know them in the spirit of transparency.
If our audience can’t trust the content we produce, they will not be able to use this information in their recovery and to avoid these crimes in the future. And if the content we produce is not truthful, useful, instructive, or wholesome, our existence as a nonprofit company cannot be justified. Therefore, SCARS expects its content creators to not only keep, but also build trust with our readers and viewers by producing content that conforms to the standards laid out in this document.
Telling the Truth
- Our first value as an organization is truth – actually, radical truth. We should be honest, accurate, truthful, transparent, and fair. We should not distort or fabricate facts, imagery, sound, or data.
- We should provide accurate context for all content.
- We should ensure that sources are reliable. To the maximum extent possible, we should make clear to our audience who and what our sources are (as much as possible and practical,) what motivations our sources may have and any conditions people have set for giving us information.
- We should correct errors quickly, completely, and visibly. This is why we typically show the last edited date on our posts and articles. We should make it easy for our audience to bring errors to our attention. Errors can be reported to us by email at contact@AgainstScams.org
- We should clearly distinguish fact from opinion or commentary or editorials.
- SCARS focuses on topics designed to resonate with people across different educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. We should strive to write clearly, in a way that communicates truth to the most people.
Nature of Our Writing
- As a values-based organization, we believe that it is vitally important that we are transparent about our beliefs and how they may affect our content priorities. We believe that we should be open about the values we hold, rather than hiding behind a veneer of “unbiased” writing. We are pro-victim, anti-criminal, and law & order focused. Our views are generally conservative but not always depending on the topic.
- Founded in the context of a nonprofit crime victims’ assistance and crime prevention organization that in general reflects a victim blaming, scammer apologizing worldview, SCARS may make editorial choices to tell stories that fill a gap in coverage priorities at establishment media outlets, and overcome false information mostly published by amateur anti-scam groups.
- Editorially, SCARS upholds traditional moral values but is not religious-based. Politically, SCARS advocates for broadly conservative positions on most issues relating to law & order.
- We want our content to be fact-based, without expression of opinions, but content creators are encouraged to provide their thoughtful opinions in commentary or other types of articles clearly listed as opinions. Every person has opinions, and we believe that our content creators should be transparent about their opinions in the appropriate place.
- Our content creators may express personal opinions in their own accounts on social networks, as governed by our policies on social media. For more information, see the section on Social Media use by Staff and Content Creators.
- We encourage our content creators to express opinions about journalism matters, advocating for freedom of information and joining the conversation within the profession about important issues.
- Our content creators, executives, and volunteers should work to ensure that advertisers, sponsors, and contributors have no influence over editorial content policies unless content is specifically disclosed as sponsored content.
- We encourage content creators to be involved in the community, politics, and the issues we cover, but we should disclose these involvements in our coverage, when directly relevant.
- Despite our organization’s involvement in the issues we cover, SCARS should provide factual content in an objective voice.
- SCARS is a diverse organization. Our Board of Directors includes online crime victims from many cultures and continents. We are a military veteran-managed organization and is predominantly female-managed.
- We believe that including different perspectives is an important part of getting to the heart of our telling the truth.
- We seek diverse pools of candidates for all jobs and volunteering roles, but should always seek to hire the most qualified candidate.
- We encourage our team to seek diverse sources, both in specific articles and in routine coverage.
- We respect our audience and those we communicate about. We should always consider how our work and its permanence may affect the subjects of our reporting, our community, and – since the internet knows no boundaries – the larger world.
- SCARS is committed to publishing only accurate information. We take many steps to ensure accuracy:
- We should investigate claims with skepticism; question assumptions; challenge conventional wisdom; confirm information with subject-matter experts; and seek to corroborate what sources tell us by talking with other informed people or consulting documents.
- We should verify content, such as technical terms, statistics, etc., against source documents, or make clear who is providing the information.
- We may share relevant components of an article with a primary source or an outside expert to verify them.
- We should stand by the information as accurate, and if it’s not, we should correct it as quickly as possible and be transparent with our readers about the magnitude of the error.
- Content Creators should ask the following questions when double-checking information in a quest for the truth.
- How do you know?
- How can you be sure?
- Where is the evidence?
- Who is the source, and how does the source know?
- What is the supporting documentation, if any?
- Original Sources: Whenever possible, we should directly reference and rely on original sources: quotes from witnesses, documents, academic journals, databases, authorities, experts. However, this may not always be possible.
- Social Media Sources: Social media posts may be used as an original source when directly quoting and referencing the fact that a statement was made by an account. Social media posts should not be relied on as a source of factual information without additional verification of authenticity. Images and videos posted on social media are more likely to be authentic, but they can be faked and also should be authenticated.
- Other News Organizations: SCARS uses online tools and other signals to help assess the credibility of potential sources for information, news and commentary. However, in rare occasions, information from an otherwise questionable source seems credible and is not available elsewhere, and in those cases — and they are and should be rare — those sources may be used with approval from a senior editor, who may choose to explain in the story why the source was used.
- Written, video, and audio excerpts from news reports, books, magazines, social media posts or other media should be attributed wherever possible to allow our readers to directly reference our sources if applicable. Not all sources are acceptable sources. This is why we never draw information from anti-scam communities or groups.
- Ideally, if resources permit, other news organizations’ reports can be a signal that we should gather and confirm facts about a story ourselves, in which case we are now an original source and do not need to attribute facts that we have independently verified.
- If we are unsure of the accuracy of the information and still believe it is in the public’s interest to tell a story, we should cite our sources, word stories carefully to avoid spreading false rumors, acknowledge what we don’t know, and, where appropriate, ask the community’s help in confirming or correcting our information.
- When sources are providing statistics, content creators should ask for the original data (which might provide more information, as well as ensuring the accuracy of the statistics).
- We should facilitate and welcome feedback from our readers and sources regarding the information that we publish.
- We include a way for readers to submit a correction to the content creator via email or as comments for each news item that we publish.
- We also allow the public to reach out to the SCARS Team.
Photo and Video Accuracy
- We should not edit or manipulate images if the intent is to deceive or manipulate the meaning of the image for our audience.
- We may obscure or pixelate images to protect the identity of someone in the image or to protect viewers from graphic material.
- We should make a reasonable effort to verify photos or videos from social media before using them. We may use unverified photos or videos from social media if we believe it is in the interest of our audience to see them for themselves.
Plagiarism and Attribution
- When we use someone’s exact words, we should use quotation marks and attribute.
- We should always try to cite news releases if they are our sources and should quote them if using their exact words.
- When we use substantial material from our archives or from an author’s previous work in a current story, we should note that the material has been published before if possible.
- When using facts generated by an original source of reporting, we should attribute sources by name and, if possible the source is digital, by providing the reader a link to the original source.
- Ideally, if resources permit, we should gather and confirm facts ourselves and in this case, would not need to attribute to another organization. Even in this situation, however, we should give credit, as a courtesy, to another information source if possible.
- If this information is routine or unoriginal (e.g, dictionary definitions, historical summaries, etc.), we do not need to name the source, but may include a link as a resource for our readers. However, we strive to only include links to relevant information so as to not confuse our readers.
- Our content creators should avoid plagiarism by adding attributions, links, or quotation marks before pasting a passage into their notes.
- There are cases where third-party information may be used and it is believed that it is in the public interest.
- We may use confidential sources to provide important information that cannot be obtained through on-the-record sources. Content creators must disclose the identity of unnamed sources to at least one senior editor.
- We may publish information from confidential sources that we consider reliable.
- We recognize that many sources cannot talk to us freely. We may grant confidentiality if we think the source has a good reason, such as to scam victims. We will only use information and quotes from unnamed sources that editorial leadership considers reliable.
- We do not pay for interviews.
- We may permit interviewees, in select cases, to revise their comments to clarify complicated or technical matters. However, it is our policy to provide interviews as recorded for transparency purposes. After an interview, written content creators may talk over the interview with interviewees and ask them to clarify unclear, complicated, or technical matters.
Sources: Reliability and Attribution
- Content creators may use sources with a conflict of interest in stories, but known details that signal the conflict of interest should be identified.
- When we reference the words or perspectives of individuals outside of the public eye, content creators should disclose the source of that information (e.g. through Twitter, Facebook, or personal communication) when possible.
- We should use links, if available, for source attribution in articles and commentary when possible.
- We should include source attribution in articles themselves as well as links, as applicable, to other sources not quoted for the story but that provide additional background information, e.g., government documents, court filings, general encyclopedia articles, and so forth when possible.
- We should make all attribution as clear and detailed as possible, including names, titles, and affiliation when possible.
- As needed, we should include details about sources that may signal bias or point of view.
- Quotes should not be altered in any way, unless a change is for approved reasons.
- Ideally, content creators should prefer “non-partial” and “unfixed” quotes. Therefore, content creators should resist changes unless necessary. If an appropriate change is thought necessary, content creators should seek to make a minimum of changes. If in doubt, content creators should speak with a supervisor.
- We should provide context for quotes with explanatory sentences or paragraphs.
- We should consider whether it makes sense to publish a full recording or transcript of the interview, to avoid any questions over the quotes we selected.
- SCARS is committed to telling its readers when an error has been made, the magnitude of the error, and the correct information, as quickly as possible. This commitment and transparency is applicable to small errors as well as large, to short news summaries as well as large feature pieces.
- We encourage the public to let our editorial team know if they believe an incorrect statement has been made in our reporting.
- Reported errors should clearly state 1) The correct information 2) The erroneous information that has been updated 3) When the update was made. The language of the correction should be standardized, not include extraneous other language, and have a serious tone.
- In general, corrections should replace the sections of the article found to contain errors, so that the entire work is correct.
- We should note that updates have been made to articles and commentary if they involve corrections or rephrasing. This appears above each post as an updated date.
- In the case of a story that has severe issues that cannot be fixed or resolved, it will be deleted since our purpose is to present correct information only.
Removing Archived Work
- We should make a reasonable effort to update a story in our archives, if possible, that is outdated.
- We should note when the post was updated – which we do on each post
- We should correct any errors we learn of in our archived content.
- In the case of acquisitions, we may delete old content without a retraction or a note about the correction.
General Ethical Considerations
- We should generally avoid identifying children — by name or photo — who are connected with crimes as victims or witnesses but may do so if the child’s identity is already widely known. See more about this in our Reporting Ethical Standard.
- We may identify children who are charged with crimes if the child has been publically identified in other media.
- We should seek permission from a parent to interview or photograph a child who is a victim.
- We should not publish the names of victims unless they agree to speak on the record or are already widely reported.
- In covering active police or military operations, we may withhold such details as location or tactics planned until after the operation to avoid endangering police, troops or civilians who could be affected.
- We should consider potential harm to sources facing intolerance in their societies before naming them in stories.
- We should identify criminals, as we believe their identities and information about them are important parts of the story or information. It can be equally important to understand what made the person commit the crime, as to tell the stories of the victims.
- In general, we should name criminal suspects if they are arrested, arraigned, convicted, or imprisoned.
- If a criminal suspect is at large and believed to be dangerous, we may identify the suspect, including a photo or sketch.
- If we were the primary reporting source for the original story about a crime or an arrest, we should make a reasonable effort to subscribe to alerts from court computer systems or search engines, or make other periodic checks to be aware of updates on such cases.
- We view everything publicly displayed on social media and the internet as fair and appropriate for news. We reserve the right to publish any content we find online or from public sources.
- We do, however, consider the standard for publishing material about private individuals who are thrust into the public eye as much higher than that for public individuals or criminals.
- We believe celebrities and public officials have no right to expect privacy, and all of their actions, whether in public or private or in social media, are fair and appropriate for publishing. We do, however, reserve the right to exercise our best judgment regarding how a subject matter’s newsworthiness relates to public decency and our values when deciding whether to publish information about celebrities and public officials, or criminals. We analyze cases on an individual basis, taking into account the news or information value of the public figure’s action.
- We may voluntarily withhold information we have gathered if we deem it inappropriate, based on our news judgment and professional standards.
- We reserve the right to publish material that we have voluntarily withheld if we determine that the material has a valid public interest.
- We should use discretion when it comes to interviewing and publishing material from trauma victims or bystanders because we understand that to do so may cause additional harm to individuals.
- SCARS should not knowingly allow the appearance of any false or deceptive information in its publications, either in articles, content, or comments.
- If individuals attempt to publish false information on SCARS publications or other media, SCARS at its option may ban the authors of such information.
- We report on so-called hate speech and actions and include original offensive expressions in some cases, subject to our limitations on obscenities (see the section on Obscenities below). In some cases, we may decide against including the original offensive expression based on our best judgment.
- We should not ever publish commentary, opinion, or analysis on SCARS that promotes racism or promotes the idea that any person or group of people is inhuman or unworthy of respect as human beings.
- Within this context, however, we reserve the right to use strong language, that in normal circumstances would be seen as disrespectful, to describe brutal, vicious or inhumane behavior.
- We should not ever publish anything that encourages violence.
- We do, however, strongly support free speech as an inherent human right and a cornerstone of a free society.
STATEMENT ABOUT VICTIM BLAMING
Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to better develop educational information and recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims. Far from it. Many of our articles discuss the Psychology of Scams – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or works against us. These become some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they have the ability to learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms. Articles like these help victims and others understand these processes and how to help prevent them from being exploited again, or to help them recover more easily by understanding their post-scam behaviors. Learn more about the Psychology of Scams & Victim Trauma
Mental Health and Suicide
- We acknowledge the reality of mental health issues and personal agency.
- We may cover suicide if it is newsworthy, and should seek to be thoughtful and respectful of the person’s family in a difficult time both through our tone and details.
- We should cover mental health and suicide as broad public health issues as consistently as we cover other matters as relevant to our readers
- We should not describe a suicide attempt as “successful” or “unsuccessful.”
- We should include contact information for resources for people in mental health crises. (e.g. “The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States is available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.”)
- We may include the method used in a suicide when it is important for audience understanding.
- We have a responsibility to weigh the balance between informing our audience and respecting the potential public health impact of our reporting.
- We should make a reasonable effort to not use medical mental health terminology (i.e., “schizophrenic,” “bipolar,” etc.) to describe non-mental health issues, except when words are part of the commonly accepted lexicon.
Use of Licensed and Unlicensed Intellectual Property
- News organizations necessarily rely on copyrighted intellectual property to tell stories that impact government, culture and society. But that necessity doesn’t free writers from the constraints of intellectual property law. Content creators should only use outside media in accordance with fair use law or with specific permission such as is provided by SCARS Partners.
- SCARS is committed to the protection of intellectual property.
- In some cases, we may copy images or video that we believe may be shortly taken down if we believe that the content falls under the purview of fair use and is of public benefit, even if we currently link to or embed the source.
- We have a system that permits individuals to “flag” comments for potential problems, and we should make a reasonable effort to review those “flagged” comments in a systematic and timely fashion.
- In the interest of encouraging public debate, we permit civil and constructive comments on almost all articles.
- As a publisher, we reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason.
- We do not currently allow anonymous commenting, though commenters may lie about their identity.
- We may access and review the identity of a registered commenter when subpoenaed by law enforcement.
- We reserve the right to access and review the identity of a registered commenter for any reason.
- We should make a reasonable effort to edit or delete comments to remove any potentially libelous language, threats of violence or other illegal speech, but we should not normally change spelling or grammatical errors.
- We reserve the right to remove content that contains spam or advertising.
- We should continually update and upgrade our commenting technology to defend against spam and trolling.
User-Generated Content (“UGC”)
- We should guard against using UGC imagery in situations that might be dangerous to the person who created it or to others in the images. We should stress to possible providers of UGC that they should not take risks to gather information or imagery.
- We may partner with other organizations and the public in attempts to verify that UGC is accurate. This could mean we distribute UGC with caveats that it hasn’t been verified, when applicable.
- We should not distribute UGC content except by embedding the original post from a third party unless we’re certain we have the right to do so. The only exception might be an urgent situation where a rights-holder cannot be found.
- If we cannot find the rights-holder in an urgent situation and use the UGC, we should make continued efforts afterward to locate and reach an agreement with the rights-holder.
- SCARS, like all online publishers, is protected by the U.S. Law Communications Decency Act of 1996 section 230.
Disclosure of Ownership / Funding Sources
- We should publicly disclose all meaningful funding sources on our corporate website and continually update our ownership structure if changes are made.
- SCARS is a nonprofit corporation and has no shareholders as does a normal corporation..
News and Advertising
- We do not allow advertisements for certain types of products that exploit scam victims or are in conflict with our mission.
- We should require news-like content produced by advertisers to be clearly identified as advertising.
- We have specific, consistent definitions of terms like “Advertisement,” “Sponsored Content” and “Message from …” and disclose them to our readers.
- If a piece of sponsored content is given to us directly, as opposed to being created in our in-house studio, we should require that items that look too much like news stories be accompanied by a clear statement that the article was prepared by the advertiser and did not involve our editorial staff.
- We should comply with all Federal Trade Commission actions on sponsored content and paid promotion.
Values – Obscenities
- SCARS Prohibits the use of all reasonably recognized English language obscenities.
Values – Graphic, Sexual, Sensitive, and Disturbing Material
- We may run sensitive and graphic material that might be offensive to specific members of our audience after internal debate has demonstrated a clear public interest in and value from the publication of such material. However, we should provide a clear warning to users whenever possible such as a “Trigger Warning.”
- Any questions about this document may be sent to SCARS at contact@AgainstScams.org.
- This ethics policy was created by SCARS Management
- This document was last updated November 27, 2022