Moderation and 'superinjunctions'
I'm the Editor, Moderation Services for BBC Online, which means I oversee moderation of your comments across the BBC website.
I wanted to respond to some interesting discussions about the moderation we've applied to comments about the 'footballer injunction' that has received so much coverage during the last few days. Following the naming of the footballer in Parliament I will, as much as I can, explain where we are drawing the line with moderation, and explain why some of you have had your comments removed for saying things everyone is saying on Twitter.
As it stands as I write this, on the BBC website, you can say that the footballer who had an injunction in place regarding an alleged affair with Imogen Thomas, was named in Parliament as being Ryan Giggs. But the word 'alleged' is important - any statement that for example an affair, or blackmail took place is likely to result in your comment being removed due to the potential for defamation which the BBC - or indeed you - may not have sufficient proof to defend. In addition as the injunction has still not been lifted we are still technically bound by its provisions. However, we have taken the view that we are able to report the parliamentary proceedings.
To those of you who use Facebook and Twitter, these rules probably seem quite strict. Injunctions, super or not, are difficult to moderate due to the secrecy around them, and particularly in a widely reported instance like this. The situation also changes quickly - the Sun newspaper had an application to lift the injunction rejected both before and after Giggs was named. We've had to update our guidance to the moderators on recent injunctions several times, speaking to the BBC lawyers to see what we could legally publish as more information became public.
I accept though that there may be times when the moderators have been over-cautious. If you believe this applies to your comment, you can make use of our appeals procedure. However, if you're one of those users who had me working at 11.30 on Saturday evening due to your increasingly creative ways of trying to breach the injunction, your appeal probably doesn't stand much chance of success...
But some of you are probably asking: 'Does the BBC need to moderate comments about the injunction at all?'
Unfortunately, much of the reporting of this issue has wrongly been characterised as 'print media vs the Internet'. The question is really whether the big social media sites - with companies and servers based outside the UK - are out of the jurisdiction of an injunction imposed by English courts. This question might be answered in the coming months. What's not in doubt is whether the BBC website is subject to the injunction. It is, and it's worth noting that the BBC has in the past been compelled by the courts to hand over the details of users accounts in the same way Twitter has been asked to do so in this case.
As I've written before it's worth remembering that there are often valid reasons for reporting restrictions and injunctions, and this may prove to be the case this time.
Finally, the majority of comments across the BBC website are reactively moderated, so if your comment has been removed and you've seen another similar one that hasn't, that's probably why.
Paul Wakely is Editor, Moderation Services for BBC Online