A word of warning to citizen journalists, reporting ethics applies to you too. If you post fake news with intent to affect stock prices then you could face jail time as one citizen journalist with bad judgment may.

This is worse than plagiarism. Steal content and you might face a civil lawsuit and/or lose a job, but likely not jail. But posting fake stories so that stock prices rise or fall when you own the stock, well, that’s called larceny and it could get you jail time.

This is like insider trading without a partner. Remember Martha Stewart? Pillow talk was an expensive lesson for America’s most popular homemaker. It seems that love – and, yes, dirty (or clean) sex – has its price if you are playing the market while playing the field. You could go six months with no love or mercy.

But write stories with the intent to influence stock prices for stocks or commodities that you own and the penalties are just as stiff. You don’t even need the pillow.

Of course, in light of no evidence, the unnamed citizen journalist in the above story could have been just pulling a prank. Does that necessitate jail time? Likely not, but it could (and should) get the “journalist” banned from the site on which his story ran. And if name gets around, he may never get to write again. That would be justice well served.

Allen Taylor is an award-winning journalist who writes the daily News and Media Blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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