Trust suggests more thought on Twitter

Wyre Davies The trust said the breach was due to the 'extreme pressure' under which Wyre Davies was working

The BBC Trust wants the BBC to look again at the way it uses Twitter to report news.

It follows Thursday's ruling by the trust's Editorial Standards Committee that a tweet by Middle East correspondent Wyre Davies during air attacks on Gaza last November breached accuracy guidelines.

Davies had used the micro-blogging site to tell readers about reported casualties from air strikes.

'In this "limited operation" at least 13 Palestinians and 3 Israelis have been killed - nearly all civilians,' he tweeted on November 15.

Later, it became apparent that the statement - which Davies said was based on information from Gaza health officials - was not true, prompting a complaint first to the BBC and then to the trust.

Better to attribute source

The trustees judged that while the health officials were an 'appropriate' source for journalists, the tweet had gone beyond their assessment that 'more than half' of the Palestinians who had been killed were civilians.

They also believed it would have been 'good practice' to attribute the claim, although they accepted that this could be difficult within Twitter's 140 character constraint.

The committee commended the 'overall quality and integrity' of Davies' reporting and said the breach was a reflection of the 'extreme pressure' under which he was working.

No correction needed

It dismissed any suggestion that the BBC intended to 'knowingly and materially mislead its audiences', and argued that there was no need to correct or delete the tweet, once more information emerged, as it did not constitute a 'serious factual error'.

'Readers would have been aware of the particular nature of the Twitter service which provides a minute by minute account and differs from a news channel providing a bulletin of record,' said the trust.

The trust considered that it was crucial for the BBC to remain on Twitter.

The corporation would not stay 'the most credible and trusted news provider in the UK if it did not use social media as well as traditional broadcasting to reach those who want their news wherever they are without delay', it reasoned.

But it wanted the executive to give further thought to user expectations of Twitter, its impact on the requirements of accuracy and impartiality, the extent to which sources should be attributed within tweets and if and how any inaccuracies could be corrected.

A statement from BBC News and Current Affairs in response to the trust's complaints bulletin said: 'We note the Trust finding and will continue to review our use of Twitter, although the ruling does not criticise existing guidance or call into question our overall use of Twitter.

'The complaint was partially upheld with regard to accuracy but not in breach with regard to impartiality. The Trust commended the overall quality and integrity of Wyre Davies' reporting in Gaza and recognised that the error reflected the extreme pressure that he and other journalists had been working under.'

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