Unsatisfactory comments moderation on BBC’s ‘Echo Chambers’ blog

The ‘House Rules’ for BBC blogs include the following:BBC Online

“Comments on our blogs are checked by a team of trained moderators to make the blogs a safe and enjoyable place to be, and ensure that they meet the House Rules. […]

The blog author or host does not usually moderate the content of the boards, although it is their job to keep the discussions relevant to the topic and within the BBC’s guidelines. They may close off-topic or other rule-breaking discussions, and sometimes make a decision on comments that have been referred to them by the moderators. They may also alert the moderators to rule-breaking comments that they see in the course of their work.”

And:

“At the BBC, we allow as much freedom as possible to have relevant discussions on our blogs. However, we are also responsible for making sure that these discussions stay polite, safe and relevant and do not violate any laws or the BBC editorial policies. This is why we have a set of House Rules that we ask everyone to follow. Moderators only remove messages that break these House Rules.

Moderation is necessary so all users can participate in online communities without fear of intimidation by other users or being subjected to offensive content.”

Hot on the heels of its previously published article in which the manager of New York’s Metropolitan Opera was given an unchallenged platform from which to defend his presentation of ‘The Death of Klinghoffer’, the BBC’s ‘Echo Chambers’ blog ran a piece by Anthony Zurcher titled “Free speech, ‘psychological rape’ and the Death of Klinghoffer” on October 23rd.

The item was opened to comments and some of them – which have passed moderation and hence can be assumed to have been judged as not breaching ‘House Rules’ (which include defamation) or “BBC editorial policies” (which include accuracy), “relevant to the topic” and not “offensive” – can be seen below.

The ‘ethnic cleansing’ canard passed BBC moderation:

Zurcher comment 1

The false description of a military operation against terrorism as ‘terrorism’ was also allowed: 

Zurcher comment 2

The antisemitic ‘Jews controlling the media’ trope passed BBC moderation:

Zurcher comment 3

The antisemitic act of holding Jews responsible for (falsely described) Israeli actions was deemed within ‘house rules’:

Zurcher comment 4

As was the false claim that any criticism of Israel is branded antisemitism:

Zurcher comment 5The well-worn canard of illegal use of white phosphorous during Operation Cast Lead is promoted using a link to a media outlet associated with the Iranian regime:

Zurcher comment 6

The inaccurate claim that all the casualties in this summer’s conflict were ‘innocent’ is promoted:

Zurcher comment 7Of course this is far from the first time that the moderation of comments on BBC blogs and articles has been unsatisfactory and failed to adhere to the BBC’s own rules.

In which BBC News helps an MP’s falsehood on its way to becoming an accepted ‘fact’

As we noted here in an earlier post, there was nothing ‘right’ or ‘honourable’ about the numerous utterances of inaccurate anti-Israel propaganda voiced by some of the members of the British parliament during the Commons debate on the issue of recognition of a Palestinian state lastEcho Chambers heading Monday.

One of those claims in particular has gained quite a lot of media attention, making it worth charting its progress – and the BBC’s provision of backwind – as it proceeds on its way towards becoming yet another component in the ‘accepted narrative’ about Israel based on falsehood.

A report titled “UK Palestine statehood vote: Symbol or stumble?” appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on October 16th. The item was written by the Echo Chambers team which purports to bring audiences “A review of the best commentary on and around the world…”.

Under the heading “Today’s must-read”, audiences are given a round-up of reactions in the American media to the UK parliament’s vote which includes the following passage:

Echo Chambers para

Regrettably, the MP for Croydon South is the one who made himself “look a fool” because the supposed reason for his about-turn; the thing which he claimed “has outraged me more than anything else in my political life” (and what a sheltered political life Sir Richard must lead) never actually happened.

Israel did not carry out any such “annexation of 950 acres of the West Bank just a few months ago”. The event to which Sir Richard refers in fact involved the determination of the status of an area of land situated in the Gush Etzion district of Area C which, after a process which went on for several years, was finally determined not to be privately owned and hence was declared state land.

It would of course not be in the least bit surprising were it to transpire that Sir Richard Ottaway’s embarrassing mistake was the result of uncritical reading of the BBC News report on the topic at the time – which, by the way, has since been amended to remove the misleading and inaccurate term ‘expropriate’.

But despite the fact that no such “annexation” took place, the BBC now amplifies that inaccurate claim by showcasing the writing of a journalist from the New Yorker who (like the political editor of the Guardian before him) obviously did not bother to examine the veracity of Ottaway’s statement before making his own pronunciation that “it should be a wake-up call” for “Israel’s supporters”. Mind you, John Cassidy also saw fit to link to the virulently anti-Israel blog ‘Mondoweiss’ in his article in the New Yorker, so perhaps his reluctance to confine himself to the facts should not come as much of a surprise.

Cassidy art New Yorker

When the media uncritically amplifies other members of the media promoting inaccurate statements by politicians who obviously make no effort to authenticate things they have read in other media reports which are often based on information provided to journalists by political NGOs, it can hardly be surprising that “world public opinion” is superficial and skewed. 

The “wake-up call” which the much publicized statements of Sir Richard Ottaway and others among his colleagues did provide this week, however, is to all those who previously presumed that British lawmakers actually bother to apprise themselves of the facts about issues upon which they voice opinions and subsequently vote.