Kiwis are upset their Facebook or Instagram posts are being splashed across the 6 o'clock news and other media in a social media "free for all" sparking calls for guidelines to be established.

New Zealanders were worried about the invasion of their privacy, new research has revealed, and the Broadcasting Standards Authority said an "urgent" conversation about the issue was needed.

Social media users did not want their content to get nicked and published by broadcasters without being asked for permission, the Broadcasting Standards Authority research stated.

But broadcasters generally believed it was okay to republish information already in the public domain.

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Belinda Moffat, BSA chief executive, said "urgent" conversations needed to be had to protect privacy. The public expected that social media content would generally remain in the context in which it was published, she said.

"Based on these findings, we see an opportunity to work with broadcasters to develop guidance about how and when to republish social media content that might affect personal rights.

"The research provides insights into how New Zealanders are thinking and their expectations. It offers a starting point for conversations that we believe are urgent."

Motivations for using social media varied amongst users. Some used it to keep in touch, for relationship maintenance while others treated it as a method to expand networks.

The research categorised social media users into the entertainers, cautious observers, attention seekers or caring connectors. In another model users were named lurkers, socialisers or debaters.

Broadcasters should account for the original context of the post and not necessarily see it as a "free for all" the research recommended.

"Issues of consent, individual rights and public interest need to be considered," the report stated.

"Workable processes and techniques to safeguard against harm from republication need to be developed.

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"It is important that entities that are concerned with these issues take a consistent approach."

Diverse focus groups consisting of 48 New Zealanders were held in four locations around New Zealand for the qualitative research.