How BBC management of online content works

The new BBC editorial guidelines include a section titled “Managing Online Content” which states:

“13.3.22 At the time that editorial content is posted online, the editorial managers responsible for its creation should decide on a strategy for its management over time. They should consider how frequently pages need to be updated or how they are to be treated if they are not to be updated.”

That decidedly vague and inconsistent instruction leads to situations such as the following:

On July 17th the BBC News website published a report on its ‘UK’ page headlined “Twelve arrested in Ayia Napa ‘over alleged rape of British woman’” which opened by telling readers that:

“Twelve Israelis have been arrested in Ayia Napa in Cyprus over an alleged rape of a British woman, reports say.”

On July 18th the BBC News website published another report on its ‘UK’ and ‘Middle East’ pages headlined “Ayia Napa: Twelve in court after ‘British woman raped’” in which readers were informed that:

“Twelve Israelis have appeared in court in Cyprus over the alleged rape of a 19-year-old British woman.”

On July 28th the BBC News website published a third report on its ‘UK’ and ‘Middle East’ pages titled “British woman arrested over ‘false rape claim’ in Ayia Napa”.

“A British woman who alleged she was raped in Cyprus has been arrested on suspicion of making a false allegation, according to news agencies.

The 12 Israelis arrested over the alleged attack, which was said to have taken place on 17 July in Ayia Napa, have all been released.”

However, the editorial managers responsible for the creation of those first two articles have not bothered to update them with a link to the third report, meaning that anyone accessing the content published on either July 17th or July 18th – for example via the ‘tourism’ tag which only appears on the second report – would remain unaware of the significant later development in the story.

It is surely obvious that best practice would be for the BBC to uniformly ensure that any developments in stories concerning alleged crimes should be added to earlier reports as a link under the “more on this story” heading at the bottom of the article in order to avoid inaccurate and misleading information becoming part of the “permanent public record”.

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Hamas official contradicts BBC’s ‘permanent archive’ messaging

Among the many BBC reports concerning the second Intifada which remain online and accessible to this day is one dated May 8th 2002 and carrying the interestingly punctuated headline “Arafat orders end to ‘terrorist’ attacks” in which readers are told that:

“Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has ordered his security forces to prevent “all terrorist operations” against Israelis after a suicide bomber killed 15 people and himself in an attack near Tel Aviv.

Mr Arafat condemned the attack as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon flew back to Israel for an emergency cabinet meeting after cutting short a visit to the United States. […]

Amid growing expectations of Israeli reprisals, the Palestinian leader said he was ordering “the security forces to confront and prevent all terrorist operations against Israeli civilians from any Palestinian group”.

He said he was committed to the US-led fight against terrorism and appealed to the international community to help his forces “implement my order”.

Mr Arafat later appeared on Palestinian television and reiterated his call.”

Such framing is not limited to that specific report. In an article published the following month the BBC’s Martin Asser told audiences that:

“The Palestinian Authority leadership has frequently condemned the tactic of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians as a means of combating Israel’s occupation, saying such attacks harm the Palestinian cause, not help it.”

In a backgrounder published in February 2003 the BBC told its audiences that:

“The [Israeli] government accuses Mr Arafat of failing to contain militant groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad which carry out many of the attacks. But analysts are now increasingly arguing that Mr Arafat is in no position to control them.”

A 2003 profile of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade informed readers that:

“Mr Arafat’s tacit backing for the brigade has also allowed Israeli officials to paint him as backing terrorism.”

Yasser Arafat’s actual role in instigating and directing the terror war known as the second Intifada has long been acknowledged by numerous Palestinian figures. The latest among them is Hamas’ Hassan Yousef who recently gave an interview which was translated by MEMRI.

“Hassan Yousef, one of the founders of Hamas in the West Bank, said in a July 12, 2019 interview on Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas-Gaza) that Hamas in the West Bank had been in constant communication with the office of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza during the Second Intifada. Yousef said that his Ramallah office had been Hamas’ “door” to the Palestinian Authority, and he explained that whenever Hamas wanted something from Yasser Arafat, he was the person who passed it on to him. Yousef said that Hamas in the West Bank would comply with Arafat’s requests regarding operations during the Intifada, and he claimed that Palestinian national ties were at their peak during this time. Yousef also explained that Hamas had played a key role in the Second Intifada, saying that it met with the PA’s Force 17 and with other PA bodies in order to coordinate and plan operations. He added that every Palestinian city had national elements from Fatah and Islamic elements from Hamas that coordinated during the Intifada.” [emphasis added]

Like many additional second Intifada era BBC reports, those cited above – and others – were never subsequently labelled as carrying inaccurate and misleading information.

According to the BBC:

“The Editorial Guidelines state, “The archive of the BBC’s online content is a permanent public record and its existence is in the public interest. The online archive particularly news reports, should not normally be removed or amended.” To do so risks erasing the past and altering history.”

It is in fact the BBC which is “altering history” by maintaining an online archive which promotes inaccurate accounts of events without that fact being flagged up to users.

Related Articles:

Not fit for purpose: BBC backgrounder on second Intifada

BBC second Intifada backgrounders: ‘Sharon started it’

Myths and lethal narratives on the BBC website

Another lethal narrative on the BBC website

 

 

BBC webpage: Israel occupying ‘traditional Arab lands’ since 1948

BBC Editorial Guidelines concerning online content include the following:

“However long ago our online content was first published, if it’s still available, editorial complaints may legitimately be made regarding it. […]

Claims that an item is inaccurate, biased or seriously misleading must be properly investigated by the originating content team where possible. Such complaints may, at the complainant’s discretion, be referred through the BBC’s published complaints procedure up to the BBC Trust.”

Here is yet another example of a BBC webpage (headed “Education”) with no date stamp which is still available online and contains inaccurate and misleading content – in this case the claim that Israel occupied land in 1948.

“In 1948 the state of Israel was created in traditional Arab lands. Its existence was challenged by neighbouring countries and, in response to attacks by Arab neighbours, Israel secured its borders by occupying lands in which Palestinians had lived for generations.”

Ashrawi page

Related Articles:

Another BBC online content management fail

Another BBC online content management fail

As was noted in BBC Watch’s submission to the DCMS charter review consultation, the fact that the BBC’s management of its online content apparently does not currently include an effective mechanism for the removal or amendment of pages which provide inaccurate or outdated information means that members of the public using that resource are liable to be materially misled.

“Management of online content over time should include the requirement to avoid materially misleading users. Articles promoting information subsequently shown to be inaccurate (e.g. claims of a ‘massacre’ which did not take place) should be clearly labelled in a manner which clarifies to readers that they do not represent historical record. In addition, the current BBC content management system does not enable members of the public searching online to receive all content on a particular topic or the newest content first. Hence, whilst more up to date content may already have been produced, users are likely to encounter out of date material which still remains on the BBC’s website but does not alert them to the fact that a replacement has been published.”

Yet another example of that phenomenon can be seen in the map below which is still available online but has not been amended to inform those viewing it that it is more than a decade out of date and does not even include a date stamp which might prompt users to search for more up to date information.

map Gaza Strip