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Moderation: Let's talk it over

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Paul Wakely Paul Wakely | 14:36 UK time, Wednesday, 27 May 2009

We're in the process of reviewing our help pages and notification emails for moderation, and I'd like to ask you for some help.

It's fair to say that we get a lot of complaints about the moderation of the various social media services on the BBC. Even Jonathan Ross can't unite the users of BBC Online in communal rage in quite the same way as moderation can.

Sadly, a large proportion of these complaints are inevitable. On a reactively moderated service - where most material is only looked at by the moderators as the result of a complaint by another user - it's a fact of moderation life that half of the people involved in each decision will be unhappy. If someone complains about another user's comment, then the complainant will be annoyed if the moderator rejects the complaint and leaves the comment up. If they uphold the complaint and remove the comment, the person who posted it feels hard done by.

So we expect some flak from both sides.

That's not to say that moderators don't make mistakes, and improvements can't be made. The trick for us is to communicate our decisions and policy more effectively while avoiding costly one-to-one discussions over individual posts. This is why we're looking at the notification emails and the help pages, so if you don't understand why your content was removed you can find further explanation without needing to write to us. We'll keep adding clarifications to these pages as we answer your queries.

Some things aren't going to change. In particular, we get a lot of requests for the moderators to write individual notifications when they fail something, pointing out exactly where the post broke the rules rather than the standard emails that are generated by the moderation process. We simply can't do this, at least not without several million pounds that we're not going to get (sorry Sutara). If you only use a few of the hundreds of BBC sites that the moderators work across, it's hard to imagine the impact of any extra time added to the moderation process, but even a small amount of time costs a lot of money. What we can do is rewrite the failure emails to make them clearer, and add more thorough explanation of the reasons why content is removed to the help pages on the site. We're trialling the first of some proposed changes here on the Internet blog from today, so if any of you are unfortunate enough to have a post removed, please leave a comment here to let me know whether you were any the wiser as to why.

We think the BBC goes much further than our peers in explaining moderation decisions and allowing right of reply when content is removed, as well it should. However, if you think there are other big companies that are doing a better job than us, do please give me examples so I can nick these ideas we can strive to improve in this area.

For a few hours this afternoon on the I'll be on a Points of View BBC topic thread, answering queries as best I can about the way we moderate the boards. Anything useful that comes out of it can be added to our help pages, and if it works well we might make it a regular thread. So please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on POV if you want your say about moderation on the BBC.

Paul Wakely is Content Producer, BBC Online


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  • Comment number 1.

    I have few complaints in respect of the moderators. On the occasions where I have been referred, I can generally see the reason why. I would however like to see some consistency as similar posts to mine sometimes seem to get through.

    One question, why does it sometimes take in excess of 1 hour to publish a comment? This is currently the case with Andrew Neil's blog. One of the few political blogs current at this time.

    I have also noticed that when there is a backlog certain posters seem to have their comments published out of turn.

  • Comment number 2.

    What about setting up a thread that contains all the rejected comments? An open waste bin. Any rejected comments from other threads are appended to the daily Rejected thread automatically with the reason for rejection. There would also be a link to the original thread.

    The "toxic" nature of the thread would have to be flagged on entry, perhaps age restricted etc.

    People could debate the contents on this thread. Like searching through a bin in case anything of value had been thrown out accidentally. Debate and flak about rejection of comments would move to this thread.

    Don't know the legal situation of displaying such a thread is. It would contain stuff that people would find offensive. Would it have to be a completely independent site? Is this too transparent?

    Or is it just legally unworkable to display free speech?

  • Comment number 3.


    In most instances 'inconsistent' moderation is attributable to services being reactive - see my (lengthy) replies on the POV thread:


    The queues are far lower than they were a couple of months ago, so posts should usually get processed in much less than an hour. However, if posts require further review (which is more likely on a news or political blog) this can delay things further.

    "I have also noticed that when there is a backlog certain posters seem to have their comments published out of turn."

    This can't happen, so if you have examples please link so I can see what could be creating this illusion.


  • Comment number 4.

    "Or is it just legally unworkable to display free speech?"

    In short yes. We'd still be publishing it, so could still be held responsible, and the users who posted it could be sued as well.

    And why would anyone want to read the stuff we've removed? I have to, so I doubt anyone would want to read it for free :-D


  • Comment number 5.

    No 3 thanks for your response.

    Re final sentence. Does this help?

    URL of content (now removed):

    A question of when, not if

    Why does WhiteEnglishProud get his/her comments moderated before everyone else? Second time today!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Could the rather patronising email that gets sent out to a failed complaint be reworded, most people don't just complain because they feel like it (the tone of the current message), they complain in good faith because they genuinely consider that there is problem - also a rather more serious issue has arisen of late (especially on the 'Nick Robinson's Newslog' blog), were it's possible for one person to make comments about another person - quite possible untruths etc. - but because the blog has been "closed for further comments" there is no way of rebuffing accusations nor does there seem to be anyway of having the said comments removed...

  • Comment number 7.

    What really annoys me is the 'engine' which deems certain words offensive. I was writing about animals and used the correct term, b**ch for a female canine and my comment was moderated as being offensive! On another occasion I used the correct term for a 'gay' female, the word which starts with L and ends with with ian. My blog was not obscene, but once again was considered offensive. I dare not mention male poultry, even if referring to farming, because of that darn engine!
    Whatever complaints I have here, they are minor ones compared to Have Your Say. This is run, it seems by dingbats for even bigger fools. A common trick is not to print a comment, and let others go in, so they can then write "Closed". We all know that is a trick.

  • Comment number 8.

    Why does WhiteEnglishProud get his/her comments moderated before everyone else? Second time today!!!


    I support re-active Moderation for everyone. I have recieved Re-active Moderation Only on the Editors Blogs since about January when I asked for one of my own posts to be removed as I felt on reflection that I had inadvertently broken the house rules. It has been somewhat of a poisened chalice, because its a priviladge everyone else also wants.

  • Comment number 9.

    ps I am not alone there are others who currently bypass Moderation or have had this ability in the past.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think this is currently working reasonably well! There seems to be little incedence of trolling (Remarkable, given that I would expect the MAil or one of Murdoch's minions to be employed to do this :-) and on the occasions where I have had a opost removed, I can normally understand why. I do have a tendency to state my case a little libellously (See above comment on Mr Murdoch for further details!)

  • Comment number 11.

    Paul, thank you for giving us this opportunity to discuss this subject.

    I have a concern regarding sanctions imposed for rule breaking (no, not me).

    When someone continuously breaks house rules, or perhaps posts one stonking great rule break, they receive a sanction of a period of time in premod. I assume that the decision as to whether they deserve this, and the period of time that it will last, is made by the host of that particular board.

    If this is the case may I suggest that it is unfair. Hosts will have favourites, sometimes even friends, and their decision will not be neutral. There is at least one poster that I have observed who is a friend of a host and despite numerous (and I MEAN numerous) removed messages they haven't EVER been subjected to a period of premod and yet other perfectly decent posters have had a one week sanction for posting one rude word.

    Could these decisions - especially regarding multiple rule breaks - not be made by someone unconnected with the boards?


  • Comment number 12.

    Don't do the crime - don't do the time. Simples!

  • Comment number 13.

    re comment @ #1 and reply @ #3

    The following is a cut and paste from the Mark Mardell Euroblog please see comment #69 - it was still awaiting moderation but both #68 and 70 were showing up, so sorry Paul what "oldreactionary" suggests can and does happen. The page was loaded at about 11:30hrs BST.

    [cut and paste]
    # 68. At 10:02am on 28 May 2009, Mathiasen wrote:

    #62. SuffolkBoy2
    You wrote: We don't have to persuade you.
    Fortunately that is correct. A program of nationalism and market radicalism would never have a chance with me. I suppose you (the so-called sceptics) have more in the bag of the things people with such opinions usually carry around. Taking the house rules of the BBC into consideration I am surprised that anybody under the cover of white English proud is allowed to write here.

    The BBC has actually been a model for broadcast companies in northern Europe, and since most people have English as their first foreign language, in many cases as their only foreign language, this blog had the potential of being a place where a European conversation concerning issues of common interest could take place, but it does not work for a number of reasons, and among these is the most important that few Europeans can connect to an agenda of British nationalist issues.

    I hardly reveal anything new by saying, I do not expect you to have any noteworthy success with your social experiment: This blog should in general to deal less with these notions. In any case I am confident that it will take some time before the vast majority in the UK and their political representatives change their EU membership in the direction further distance. If it ever happens.

    Complain about this comment

    # 69. At 10:21am on 28 May 2009, karolina001

    This comment is awaiting moderation. Explain.

    # 70. At 10:52am on 28 May 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:


    You right with the Party list system in the E.U elections and Party Selected candidates in the FPTP system in the UK we do live under a Selected oligarchy. Which is given some small legitimacy in that they are rubber stamped at election time by voters. The answer is the Single Transferable Vote system (post #27) of PR with open selection of party candidates (open to everyone in the constituency that wants to get involved.)
    [/cut and paste]

  • Comment number 14.

    Current wait for Moderation on Andrew Neil's new blog 1hr 15 minutes and counting

  • Comment number 15.

    re comment @ #14

    Getting on for 1hr 45 minutes on Mark Mardell's Euroblog, but that fails into insignificance when one considers that Nick Robinson's Newslog has been closed since the 22nd May...

    Perhaps the BBC should just admit defeat, a phrase that comments about a failed party in a brewery comes to mind! All that is happening at the moment is that the BBC is wasting an shed full of OUR money on a service that is next to useless.

  • Comment number 16.

    Boilerplated @13

    if you see my comment at #8 you will see that i have explained what is happening with my posts.

    further displays of jealousy are unwelcome. I would like everyone to recieve re-active moderation. I feel it is unfair to single me out as there are other poster who too are re-actively moderated.


    I take it that I'm am not supposed to have this ability, a suggestion would be that re-active moderation is given on all boards/blogs once a poster has shown that they can be trusted to behave responsibly. Say 6 months with no upheld complaints / removed posts. This would encourage good behavour and reward those who respected the rules.

  • Comment number 17.

    On the whole I think the moderating works quite well.

    There was a period when 'StrongholdBarricades' was being posted before anyone else but I like his posts so I was happy.

    I think we take any moderation too personally and even I am surprised that some of my posts get through, especially those about a certain person with a 'colour' for a name!

  • Comment number 18.

    Serves me right for pointing it out. My post on Andrew Neil's blog is still awaiting moderation despite the one after it having been moderated. I don't think there is anything in it too controversial.

  • Comment number 19.


    "if you see my comment at #8 you will see that i have explained what is happening with my posts.

    Quite frankly what you say is irrelevant to what is happening and what "Paul" said could not occur, and no that is not any comment directed to you, if I had reactive moderation I would have still posted the same as I did @ 13. Most people will have no way of knowing why your comment appeared before another.

    "further displays of jealousy are unwelcome.

    Didn't even cross my mind until you mentioned it! But yes, if one person has reactive moderation then all should, if one person doesn't then none should - proven, intentional and repeated, causes for rejection/complaint excepted.

    "Say 6 months with no upheld complaints / removed posts."

    That would be a bit difficult to achieve, if moderation was a constant even you would have been banned I suspect, in fact most people would have been for we all make careless slips with names, words etc. - the difference is between wilful and careless comments. For example I had one comment rejected because I said "if any fra*d had been committed", a totally correct and natural comment to make, not accusing anyone of anything (and in the context of the discussion, quite the opposite in fact) but it obviously got caught in the same way as the person @ #7 was complaining - context is everything but never seems to get taken into account and thus can cause a rejection/removal.

  • Comment number 20.

    "But yes, if one person has reactive moderation then all should, if one person doesn't then none should - proven, intentional and repeated, causes for rejection/complaint excepted."

    I agree however it is not something I asked for and not something I can change.

    "That would be a bit difficult to achieve"

    You right I would be hard to acheive however It could lead to a better quality of post all round. People would think more before bashing away at there keyboard. Or maybe factional slips could be discounted. or say a maximum of 3 removed posts provided the reason for removal are not ..... "insert red line rule breaks here"

    Its about finding a compromises that shows the BBC have shown due diligence in not allowing people to post "illegal comments" and allowing debate to happen in real time or at least a message every 5 mins or so.

  • Comment number 21.

    "Most people will have no way of knowing why your comment appeared before another."

    I have no way of knowing its a guess, all I know is the day after I asked for one of my comments to be removed my posts were being posted instantly

  • Comment number 22.

    Paul he is another example just incase you still can't believe it and to show there are not hard feelings to Boiler Plated, my anger was partly due to Mathiasens comment about my username which I only noticed when it was posted on here.

    Anyway this is again from Mark Mardells Europe Blog

    72. At 11:22am on 28 May 2009, Freeborn-John wrote:
    Mathiasen: You seem to believe that if British membership of the EEC had advantages in the 1970s then it automatically implies there are advantages to being in a European political union in the future. That ignores the major changes that have occurred both to the EEC/EU and in the world around it since the 1970..........(there was more but it FBJ zzzzzzzzz)

    Complain about this comment

    73. At 1:22pm on 28 May 2009, RomeStu
    This comment is awaiting moderation. Explain.

    74. At 1:26pm on 28 May 2009, RomeStu
    This comment is awaiting moderation. Explain.

    75. At 1:39pm on 28 May 2009, RomeStu
    This comment is awaiting moderation. Explain.

    76. At 2:00pm on 28 May 2009, youngTonyL
    This comment is awaiting moderation. Explain.

    77. At 2:11pm on 28 May 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    "Taking the house rules of the BBC into consideration I am surprised that anybody under the cover of white English proud is allowed to write here."

    Really you think that my user name in some way breaks the house rules?

    ............(again even I find my posts boring zzzzzzzzzz)

  • Comment number 23.

    No 22

    What's in a name! My previous nom de guerre was TakeThePainNow reflecting my view that taxes should be increased and spending cut asap to avoid our children and grandchildren having to pay for our mistakes. Apparently this offended someone and I was reduced to a URL number.

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm white
    I'm English
    I'm proud

    What is wrong with that? If I was black and English, I would still be proud. As #23 says, what's in a name? OK, within reason then.

    As for moderation, it does wind me up sometimes that 'awaiting moderation' can take hours. Two comments that I have currently posted on the Editors 'Who's Watching You' blog were posted at 15.05 and 15.30 respectively, and at 16.55 are still waiting.

    I admit, I did have a post removed some time back, for going off-topic - not exactly a big law breaker there - but I agree with some of the comments here that experienced posters, who all have accounts with the BBC to enable them to post, should be trusted a little more.

    You would need to have an active account to have unrestricted access to all posts, and a 'guest' account would only allow viewing of post-moderated entries, but I do understand the BBC's hesitance to freely publish all content in the face of possible legal action against not only them, but us as the writers.

  • Comment number 25.

    Another comment about moderation - maybe you could 'blank out' with *****s any offending text without removing the entire post. If the offending remark is more than a word, the whole sentence or paragraph could be *****ed to a point. If it is the sentiment of the entry rather than the words used, then my previous idea about having a two-tier membership might be able to be employed.

    Only ideas.

  • Comment number 26.

    Are the moderators understaffed? I've seen posts being approved in minutes before now, maybe a half hour sometimes, but today has been very bad so far.

    One post I've put on one of the editors blogs - a pre-moderated blog - at 16.20 and it is still pending at 17.52

    Another I've put on a post-moderated blog - at 17.41 and it is awaiting moderation still now (17.53).

  • Comment number 27.

    Andrew Neil's blog is now taking over 2 1/2hrs to moderate.

    Just a suggestion would it be possible to post the current waiting time on the BBC site somewhere. You know just like they do in the A&E dept of a hospital. At least we would have some idea as to what to expect.

    If there are problems with shortage of staff etc please let us know.

  • Comment number 28.

    Paul, so - I can nick these ideas? lol.

    Stop the world - while we think about things, eh? Nice to have that option.

    This thread is talking about censorship and perhaps future modifications or clarifications - pure and simple.

    And that is fine. I have been moderated and been miffed but that is fine. I aint gainsaying Ms Quinn anytime soon and as for that Mair fellah....?

    In the West Wing - Martin Sheen's Bartlet character said he decided to run seriously against the James Brolins character for President because of the sentence - by Brolin "Gun Crime. Well I do not know".

    Put Eddie name where "gun crme" is and you got it.

  • Comment number 29.

    Paul, many issues have been raised, can we have some feed back please?

  • Comment number 30.

    Paul, hope your POV session went well and you've gotten some good feedback about moderation. There are a few good points here too, and I hope you take it all into consideration.

    I've another point - I've been posting on BBC blogs - mainly on the news and political blogs - for quite a while now, and like almost everyone else, I'm pre-moderated. Why does it say that 'new members are pre-moderated initially' when it seems that almost everyone is pre-moderated always? See my post below, awaiting moderation. Is this a matter of trust?

    # 107. At 11:27am on 29 May 2009, SHLA2UK (awaiting moderation)

    Where's my comment?All new members are pre-moderated initially, which means that there will be a short delay between when you post your comment and when it appears while one of our moderators checks it.

  • Comment number 31.

    My ability to Post instantly on the Editor Blog has now been removed, I assume as a result of this thread an acknowledgement would be appriciated be it public or private.

  • Comment number 32.

    WEP - is this not a backward step? I am asking, in my #30, that long term trusted posters should be allowed to be at least post-moderated if not reactively moderated. The BBC even suggests this with their comment when you submit a posting. All new member are pre-moderated initially. Neither you nor I are 'new' members and so I feel that although it needs to be earned, there should be privileges

  • Comment number 33.

    On the main blog I contribute to (The PM Blog), it is widely suspected there's a user who "plays the system". This user routinely posts contentious items (or just rambles on at length about their pet economic theory), but whilst being incredibly irritating, generally avoids breaking the house rules. And if their attention slips long enough to slip into pre-mod, they simply abandon their current nickname and create a new Blog ID...

    Having said that, it's difficult to see what could be done to combat "intelligent trolls", unless they use the same email address for every new ID they set up (IP address logging, as happens on some forums, is almost worthless, as some ISPs give users a new dynamic IP every time they connect).

  • Comment number 34.

    In reply to comments made @ #32

    I suspect that recent activity on the Nick Robinson's Newslog has made the BBC reconsider reactive moderation, you have to accept that even an unintended defamation or libel can be posted and then read by millions before any retro-moderation can take place - and remember that mud sticks, and legal suits cost a lot of money and time to defend...

    This blog is re-actively moderated but I'm sure if someone started to make possibly defamatory or libellous comments here it would soon revert to pre-moderation.

    Whilst I would like to see more retro-moderation applied I can also understand why the BBC considers it problematic, the answer is to either have more moderators, better automatic moderation or even (dare I say) fewer blogs so that the existing number of mods have less blogs to 'police' - I would not object to that if there was also more leeway allowed for thread-drift into related subjects.

  • Comment number 35.

    Mittfh @33 - I didn't know that about IP addresses - I had hoped that might be a way of tracking re-registration :s

    Paul - one suggestion I have is to include an additional page from house rules, giving some general guidelines on how to write a non-offensive comment. I can think of some simple DO's and DON'TS but wouldn't want to impose my opinions. It just might help people to live in harmony while discussing issues that almost inevitably raise passionate opinions. I was unfortunate enough to witness and be a part of a, urm, difficult debate on a blog recently and most of the disagreements and heat could have been taken out of the arguments if the participants had used different semantics.

  • Comment number 36.

    re issues raised @ #33

    I agree that the 'intelligent troll' is a problem, there is one such fellow on the Mark Mardell Euroblog (in fact I consider him to be the blogging equivalent to a radio Shock-jock, as you say, never going quite far enough to obtain a valid referral), whilst IP blocking is problematic if there was proper monitoring of such blocks it would soon be clear if someone was 'evading' a block - Wikipedia uses such a system and it does work quite effectively - IP numbers tell a lot about the user, even when the numbers are dynamic.

    I would like to see the BBC develop some form of client based filtering so that the end user can filter out who they consider trolls or 'Shock-jocks' etc. for example (this would also reduce the number of complaint referrals I suspect), all users have a "userid" number so it shouldn't be that difficult to write these userid's to a client side cookie and use that to deploy a display:none option on the content of those messages, it might even be possible to have a site wide filter of just specific blogs, even an option to display the hidden text.

  • Comment number 37.


    I believe that whilst i does appear to be a backward step, it was unfair on other commentators that I had abilities that they didn't.

    The message that i given when you post is as you say misleading. And I also believe that commentators who can be trusted, should br re-actively or post moderated. All thats needed is a frame work from the BBC in order to earn this trust.

    Boilerplated @ 32

    I agree that some issues are so contensious that pre-moderation for everyone is needed. I dont see why this couldnt be changed as blop topics change. The Blog Owner knows if his Blog is trying to incite a particular reaction, and could change the Moderation staus accordingly.

  • Comment number 38.


    I dont see why this couldnt be changed as blop topics change."

    Because people could say the same thing in a retro-moderated section to the same effect, if the the blog's subject matter is contentious then I can understand why all blogs get treated the same - it's not so much the subject but the audience, exactly the same reason why the CBBC message boards are always pre-moderated.

  • Comment number 39.

    oh no, what's happened. All the posts are mixed up. Is anyone else seeing this? It seems to have regressed to computer logic - 1, 11, 12, 13 - 19, 2, 21, 22, etc., or is it just my PC?

  • Comment number 40.

    I don't think it's your pc SHLA2UK - looks like someone has messed with a SQL statement and it is ordering by alphanumeric value and not numeric ;-) It is affecting other BBC blogs too :D

  • Comment number 41.

    Hi oldreactionary, Boilerplated and WhiteEnglishProud

    Well, I apologise, because I was dead wrong when I said it was impossible, and thank you for pointing out what we've discovered was a bug affecting about 100-120 users. These users posts were indeed appearing straight away on premoderated blogs, though they were still all being checked by the mods.

    I've passed it onto the development team and we think we've sorted it, or are close. So I hope you enjoyed your 'freedom' while you had it ;-)

    The order of the comments seems to have gone to pot as I'm typing this, so I've raised that with them as well. Ho hum.

    #6 Boilerplated

    We are working on improving the emails - they were written a long time ago and are definitely a bit on the unfriendly side.

    #7 phoenixarisenq

    If you were using the word in that context, it just sounds to me like the mod made an error. However, the mods don't see the posts in context, so it could be that when viewed in isolation it didn't look like you were talking about a dog, so maybe it's an understandable mistake.

    It's worth noting that if you have a post failed then it's a human that has made that decision. There is a filter that might block you posting in the first place (which does sometimes makes errors - we're working on that) but if you've posted then had it removed on a blog, board or community, it's been done by a person.

    Thanks for your comments and suggestions, I'll post again on Monday, and we're readying some of this stuff for the FAQ pages.



  • Comment number 42.

    ah-ha - looks like they've corrected it. Thanks for saving my sanity Dr_Bee - thought it was just me for a minute - thought I was going mad (or madder)

  • Comment number 43.

    WhiteEnglishProud - Many apologies if I have inadvertently been the cause of the loss of your privilege. It started as a simple question and I have no issue with your posts.

    I am however quite pleased with myself, an IT ignoramus, having proved that something that "could not happen" can!

    For my part I am happy for my posts to be moderated prior to publication as I would hate to find that I had been inadvertently libelous etc. I just wish that moderation would be quicker on occasion.

  • Comment number 44.

    Thanks to the DNA development team for fixing the ordering problem so quickly, that's much less confusing now :-)


  • Comment number 45.


    I was wondering if you could use the data from this "bug". What % of posts by these 120 users had be be removed? (I'm assuming it was a random occourance) Does the data show that these people were more or less responsible than other users. I am a firm believer that right cme with responsibilities it would be intresting to see if the users (as a group) who were affected acted more / less responsibly than other posters as a whole.

  • Comment number 46.

    Paul, I do hope your absence is due to a holiday and not illness.

    I think I made a reasonable point in #11. I do hope that you will consider it.


  • Comment number 47.

    Hi Frank_N_Post

    I did have a few days off, and was ill, and then in the work quagmire that not being in the office for a few days causes :-)

    I'm preparing to do another post like this on the PM blog tomorrow, so collating some of the things we discovered. I think the best way to manage these queries is for me to do another blog post rounding them all up along with the changes we've made once we've run a few threads on different services, so I'll try to do that in a couple of weeks.

    Your point in #11 is indeed a good one, but in fact most premod and banning decisions are made by the central team, not the hosts. This is because premod or ban-worthy behaviour is often escalated to us by the mods. Also, I've seen a few users over the years claiming to have 'friends in high places' when in fact the host doesn't even know they exist. However, if you think someone's worthy of a premod or banning or there's any unfair treatment going on, contact us via https://www.bbc.co.uk/messageboards/newguide/feedback_form.shtml

    and we'll have a look.



  • Comment number 48.

    #35 Dr Bee

    More advice on writing messages without upsetting people is definitely a good idea, something we can add to this page: https://www.bbc.co.uk/messageboards/newguide/writing_messages.shtml

    #33 mittfh and #36 Boilerplated

    The "intelligent troll" is indeed tricky to deal with, not least because one man's "intelligent troll" is another man's freedom fighter, or something :-) We often get users who attract a lot of complaints but just seem to want a more heated debate than others, and it's sometimes difficult to keep everyone happy.

    Client based filtering is something we've discussed (although I wouldn't have known that's what it was called...). From our point of view our main concern is our responsibility for what goes on bbc.co.uk, but I can see the advantage for the user who just doesn't want to get wound up by someone else - a sort of digital 'talk to the hand'. The main argument against it is that it could lead to more cliques forming, but that tends to happen anyway and there are definite advantages, so your suggestions as to how it could work are much appreciated.



  • Comment number 49.


    Glad to see you back Paul. Thank you for your reply.

  • Comment number 50.

    Paul, On a thread on the PM Blog recently you kindly answered questions about moderation. I raised the issue of comments remaining in the referral status for very long periods. You were very surprised that this was happening. But it is, and it is irritating regular contributors to the PM Blog. One has just left the Blog because his comment is still in that status two days after it was 'pulled' for consideration. Checking back on comments that were referred from me on a thread a week ago, I find they are also still being deliberated. You will find these here
    The comments in question are 48, 52 and 53.

    After your reassurances, I had hoped this wasn't going to continue happening. Please could you do something about it - and perhaps it would help if you posted something on the PM Blog to reassure regulars?


  • Comment number 51.

    #50 Big Sister

    Following the PM discussion and finding that Sid's post had indeed been in limbo for six weeks we've identified an issue and are working to resolve it.

    Until we work out exactly why these posts aren't getting processed I'm not going to go into further detail, but it's not a problem with the speed of moderation nor one that falls under my area of responsibility. Should be resolved soon though I hope.



  • Comment number 52.

    'Sid's post'? I wouldn't worry too much about that one - given the dynamic nature of the blogs, once a couple of hours have passed there's little point reinstating referred posts. The discussion will have moved on ... Having said which, I'm glad you've identified an issue and are working to fix it.

    I'm more worried about the fact that one particular poster who espouses a Khmer Rouge type approach to society and the economy, and never misses an opportunity to inform us of his views at great length, is regularly reduced to a number, only to pop up again with a new name to continue his boring and offensive campaign. I referred four of his posts the other day - for 'tedious paranoia', 'tedious paranoia (but more long winded)', 'tedious paranoia (this time with a dig at the mods)', and 'not in English'. So - his posts went - and now he's back. Is it really not possible to control this sort of thing?

    The contributor to the PM Blog mentioned by Big Sister appears to left not only because his own posts were in limbo for days, but also because of the perceived unfairness in having his posts unread while the other poster in question appears to be immune to any kind of sanction.

  • Comment number 53.

    Paul, thank you for your response. I hope you won't object - I'm going to copy and paste your reply onto the PM Blog so that others are aware.

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi BigSis/Sid
    Thanks for taking the trouble to follow this up, Big Sis.
    And Sid, you are pretty spot on about why I threw the toys out of the pram.

    I don't really care about having posts removed - it's annoying, sometimes inconsistent, but I can live with it. No moderation system can be perfect and in the end it comes down to an individual's judgement. Despite my rant on the PM Blog, I must say that I think the mods get it right pretty well most of the time.

    It's when postings are held in the 'referred' state for ages that really riles me and a lot of other contributors. I'm glad to read that Paul has identified a problem and that it will be resolved soon

    And as for the ever returning banned Mac, or whatever new alias he has, it is beyond me why he is permitted to constantly return and spoil what used to be an entertaining and informative blog. I can only assume that he is able to generate a new and disposable email address each time and uses a dynamic DNS. For the most part I don't read his diatribes, or skim them at best, but I imagine that his efforts must turn off dozens of would-be contributors every time he has a post on the PM Blog.

  • Comment number 55.

    Paul: Horse and Sid are quite right - the contributor in question, who always eventually resorts to personal abuse to both other contributors and BBC staff, as well as posting endless, repetitious, rambling posts that are usually off topic, is an unnecessary and unpleasant disruption. The PM Blog, as I'll guess you've gathered, is much valued by a lot of people for its humour and usually intelligent discussion. I guess that's why three of us (and more above) are taking up issues with you.

    It's a great credit to the BBC that one of its blogs inspires such loyalty.

  • Comment number 56.


    You gave an address in your (47) to contact with any problems or comments. I sent this earlier today:

    "Is there any reason why a posting to the PM Blog should be stuck in"referred to the moderators" status for days. Surely it can't take that long for someone to decide whether a posting breaks the House Rules or not. I don't really have a problem with the application of House Rules, even if they are sometimes applied inconsistently, but to have a posting referred and not ruled on is extremely frustrating. I am currently awaiting moderation here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/pm/2009/07/pointless_postcard_1.shtml
    You will also find that 'Big Sister' has three posts in "referred to themoderators" status on this thread: https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/pm/2009/06/the_death_of_michael_jackson.shtml
    That's a week ago! Have these simply slipped though the net somehow? {End of Comments:}

    And this is the reply that I got:

    Dear BBC Visitor Thank you for your email. It appears that your post is currently locked to a messageboard host pending a decision as to whether it breaks House Rules. Regards,Central Communities Team.
    Sent: 03 July 2009 10:29To: Central Communities TeamSubject: Feedback - Moderation problems {Our Reply:} Thank you for contacting the BBC. (Reply) Regards,BBC Central Communities Teamwww.bbc.co.uk/messageboards/ {Your Email to the BBC}------------
    ---------------------------------------------- {Comment Type:} Moderation problems {Date:} {Email:}

    I have resisted the temptation to respond by telling them that I am very grateful that they have told me what I told them! :o)

  • Comment number 57.

    Can 56 really be true? Presumably that reply was generated automatically? I can't believe a real person would have read the original message and responded in that way.

  • Comment number 58.

    Big Sis - Are you questioning my honesty? How very dare you? :o)

    Perfectly true, I assure you. A straight cut and paste from my email, with the exception that I have removed my address.

  • Comment number 59.

    (51) Soon? Should I hold my breath?

  • Comment number 60.

    i've not read every post, but its a pleasure to a post to a reactively moderated thread.

    I while ago I tried making some comments on a normal thread (mot in this area). The posts weren't immediately displayed, and after 2 posts, I got a message saying my limit had been reached. Do you get limits here? At least you can have a real time conversation. That's an adult way to deal with stuff!

  • Comment number 61.

    A comment herereferred to the mods on 1st July still hasn't been decided on and no indication that it ever will be. It doesn't really work very well, does it?

  • Comment number 62.

    Paul: Could you please explain to us why an individual who hasn't done anything more serious than hold more than one alias can have their account permanently blocked? This is happening to a regular on the PM Blog and we miss him very much!

  • Comment number 63.

    Big Sis 62 - hear hear, we have certain people on certain blogs causing actual trouble, do you not think that your powers and attention as mods should be directed elswhere?

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 66.

    Still waiting for an answer [1] to the request for a method to report a user at the account level - via a "Report user-account abuse" link on the users profile page perhaps? - rather than on an individual message bases, such is the continual plague of comment-spam it would be far simpler surely (and use less moderation resources) to report a miss-used account than send numerous individual complaints.

    [1] sorry but I can't remember in which blog I pointed out the issue, it was some months ago now, but do know that nothing seems to have been done.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    Any chance of a comment about the state of the moderation on the Religion boards, with reference to this thread in particular?


  • Comment number 69.

    #68 Hi Kiteman

    The decisions on off-topic are referred to the hosts (see earlier comments on this post, followed up in a similar post on the PM blog). The mods work across all services and the editorial owners of a board or blog are better positioned to make a call on this. I can't answer your question so I contacted the Religion host this afternoon about this issue and while they're out of the office at the moment they hope to be able to have a look at your query tomorrow.

    #66 Boilerplated - I can't remember where you asked the question either, but I thought I'd said at the time that if you just alert the post and say that you think the user wants looking at the mods can refer the user's account for review. Could well be wrong though :-D

    User alert functionality is a good suggestion and might be useful, but wouldn't be at the top of our development priorities at the moment when you can just alert as above. Plus it would sadly be just as open to misuse as the normal complaints channels are.

    Cheers, Paul

  • Comment number 70.

    #69. At 6:59pm on 09 Feb 2010, Central Communities Team wrote:

    Thanks for the reply! Dealing with your comments in reverse order...

    Re my comment @ #66, no, that process doesn't work, only the referred comment gets dealt with, there really does need to be a way of reporting at the account level, perhaps only were spam is concerned perhaps, at least to start with. As for abuse, any reporting method/criteria is open to that. In the mean time perhaps new instructions could be issued to the mods, thus is the complaint makes mention of other (comment-)spam the mods will either check themselves or elevate the complaint to a higher level?

    In reply to #68 Hi Kiteman:
    "The decisions on off-topic are referred to the hosts (see earlier comments on this post, followed up in a similar post on the PM blog). The mods work across all services and the editorial owners of a board or blog are better positioned to make a call on this."

    Hmm, interesting, in another blog one of the hosts (whilst talking about moderation) stated that hosts and other 'notables' go through the same moderation process as everyone else, that implied - at the time the comment was made - that if a host considers a comment to be off topic they would refer it to the mods who then decide if it is indeed off topic, what you have said above suggests that a host can unilaterally decide that a comment is 'Off Topic' - Judge, Jury and Executioner in effect! Nothing what so ever to stop the host from removing perfectly on-topic comments that they would prefer, either professionally or personally, not to see on their blog...

    In my opinion, assuming you are correct in what you say (and you are the expert here, not me, not the hosts) there does seem to be room for - and here I hope I'm not sounding to harsh - abuse by those in a position of power, as I said - Judge, Jury and Executioner.

    Not sure what needs to be done but the current system could start to (and some may well suggest that it has already) smell, very quickly...

  • Comment number 71.

    Boilerplated -

    Hosting decisions are sometimes matters of fine judgement, especially over the often vexed question of what is off topic. Like any system it depends on the professionalism and integrity of BBC hosts to stay impartial, and rational (which is sometimes difficult when hosts are being abused for their decisions) and play things straight and within the house rules and BBC guidelines. I'm confident that in the unlikely event that a host strays from this we will spot it and take appropriate action.

    Criticism of the BBC on social media services is allowed as long it does not break the house rules (i.e. becomes abusive, disruptive, off topic or legally unsafe).

    I hope that reassures you.

  • Comment number 72.


    Thanks for the prompt follow up Nick, a follow-on questions, who is the "we" you refer to, considering that (and for some understandable reasons) a user can't actually appeal a moderation decision - follow up emails either fail on deaf ears to never actually get acknowledged - how does the BBC, as an organisation, audit the moderation process (I'm not asking about the moderation process but how the BBC knows that the process is working effectively, or not)?

  • Comment number 73.

    Re comments by Nick Reynolds @ 71

    Sorry Nick but recent events on another blog is all but proving that moderation powers can and are being abuse on certain BBC blogs, the judge, Jury and Executioner syndrome - how does one report such abuse to a higher level?

    Or will a FoI request have to be made...

  • Comment number 74.

    Boilerplated - "we" in practical terms means the Central Communities Team which Paul (who wrote the blog post) a member of.

    Which blog are you referring to?

  • Comment number 75.

    #74. At 8:54pm on 11 Feb 2010, Nick Reynolds wrote:

    "Boilerplated - "we" in practical terms means the Central Communities Team which Paul (who wrote the blog post) a member of."

    So there is not actually any way of reporting it at an independent level?

    "Which blog are you referring to?"

    Do I really need to spell it out to you Nick?...

    It's one thing to remove abusive, especially personally abusive, comments (any of the BBC blog hosts have my full support in that) but removing on topic comments that happen to stray from a host's (or supervisor's) strict interpretation of the subject matter is another, 'thread-drift' can still be on-topic, still talking about issues that affect the subject being debated.

  • Comment number 76.

    Boilerplated - you appear to be referring to the current conversations about BBC HD on this blog. The host's job is precisely to interpret what the subject matter of the post is and whether comments are on or off topic.

    Logically therefore comments cannot be on topic if a host decides they are off topic, and if a thread drifts off topic then it cannot be on topic. You may disagree with my hosting judgements, or think they are too strict, but it's my job to make those judgements.

    A blog is not a message board. You can't expect to have the kind of free wheeling conversation on a blog that you would on a message board.

    The HD conversation has been difficult to host because some commenters have been both off topic and abusive. And I have given people fair warning when comments are drifting off topic.

  • Comment number 77.

    Do the BBC (and Nick Reynolds) think that the moderation on the Guardian website is a good model for the BBC to copy ?

  • Comment number 78.

    Re #76: Nick, simple question, what is the official BBC policy as to what the function of the comment sections in the blogs are (can you point us towards an official policy document)?

    The reason I ask is that thread drift - within the general scope of the blogs subject and legal issues not withstanding - seem acceptable in so many of the BBC blogs that your management of the "BBC Internet blogs" seem to be the exception to the general rule. For example, take any blog from the three main UK centric 'Political/Business' [1] blogs (probably the most contentious and legally challenging of all blogs for the BBC to manage) will show that some user discussions have a very broad-brush indeed, only totally off topic comments getting removed, often via user reporting (and remember that all those blogs are pre-moderated). How is it that thread drift is allowed on just about every BBC blog apart from those that you over-see, if thread drift was against BBC policy then most of the comments on the afore mentioned blogs would not get passed the pre-moderation stage!

    [1] Peston's Picks, Nick Robinson's Newslog and Gavin Hewitt's Europe blogs.

    Only the "The Editors" blog seems to be managed in a similar style to your own. Could the difference be, that in the afore mentioned blogs (and most other blogs on the BBC), thread drift is not discussing the BBC, people are not criticising either BBC personal or policy, it's OK to tell the world how bad the British political system is is, how badly run the British Banks are, how useless the EU is or what ever, but dare anyone comment on the British Broadcasting Corporation...

    No one is complaining about the removal of abusive comments (nor is mere criticism abuse either...), it's the removal of on-topic comments that don't fit the narrow idea of what someone thinks is allowed in the debate, for example, at the current bit-rates many would suggest that BBC HD should avoid certain genres of drama but mention of bit-rates appears to run the risk of summery removal for being off topic! I'm starting to wonder if the real problem here is a lack of understanding of the subject, anything that strays from the narrow is questioned, thus we get this sort of comment only to be retracted later after the blogs authormakes the scope of the blog clear, that blog seems to be running sweetly enough, just like those business and political blogs do.

    There is moderation and there is censorship, the latter has no place simply because a comment doesn't fit the narrow opinion of someone who has the power to remove it. Nor should it be expected to have two similar debates in two different places simply because of words being used, in just about ever subject there is an overlap with another - if those commenting on Robert Peston's blog couldn't mention the UK government and those on Nick Robinson's blog couldn't mention the CBI both blogs would sink into total fast very quickly!

  • Comment number 79.

    I think Nick quite clearly stated his approach to "moderation":

    The host's job is precisely to interpret what the subject matter of the post is and whether comments are on or off topic.

    Logically therefore comments cannot be on topic if a host decides they are off topic, and if a thread drifts off topic then it cannot be on topic.

    i.e. irrespective of what the original blog poster intended, the blog comments must discuss what he decides, and nothing else.

  • Comment number 80.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 81.

    79. At 11:54am on 14 Feb 2010, Marquee wrote:

    "i.e. irrespective of what the original blog poster intended, the blog comments must discuss what he decides, and nothing else."

    Yes indeed (and without getting to hot under the collar this time and then accidentally pressing "send", apologies to anyone who read it...), the only person who is coming out of the fiasco is the caretaker themselves, subjects overlap and it is natural to compare one thing with another, to use other objects as a figure of speech (the piece of cake analogy), to stifle the natural flow of a debate tends to stop the debate - perhaps that is the intention, to in effect close the blog by making further comment almost impossible...

    There is a conflict in the moderation process, it is not right that a blogs host (or their proxy) can act as Judge, Jury and Executioner, especially where the subject comes down to how the host or dept. is doing their job.

  • Comment number 82.

    Hosting a blog is a matter of editorial judgement and these judgements will differ from host to host and from blog to blog.

    Since I only host this blog then I can only speak for the decisions that I make.

    "i.e. irrespective of what the original blog poster intended, the blog comments must discuss what he decides, and nothing else." - actually the reverse is true. My job as host is to ensure that the conversation stays true to what the original blog poster intended. For example the question of how the host is doing his or her job is off topic on a post about BBC HD Drama.

    "Thread drift" and the risks that comes with it will vary from post to post. On certain posts "thread drift" may be more acceptable and less likely to lead to breaches of the House Rules. But on a subject like BBC HD where there's a history of strong opinions and past breaches of the House Rules then it's more important that "thread drift" is kept in check. My past experience is that "thread drift" on BBC HD topics leads to off topic and abusive comments.

  • Comment number 83.

    82. At 2:42pm on 14 Feb 2010, Nick Reynolds wrote:

    "My past experience is that "thread drift" on BBC HD topics leads to off topic and abusive comments."

    No, thread drift doesn't lead to abusive comments, many of the abusive comments would have been made anyway due to the underlying issues (what ever the blog or subject), others will come out of the micro-management of the debate when people get frustrated at finding their otherwise on-topic comments are getting removed because of such a narrowly defined topicality by the host or proxy.

    As I pointed out (@ #78), there are many other, far more heated, BBC blogs were the debate flows far and wide without issue, the only difference is that someone within the BBC is not attempting to protect others within the BBC.

    Deal with the abuse by all means (you'll have much support in doing that), don't stifle the debate because you are scared that someone might post an abusive comment, don't attempt to be Judge, Jury and Executioner - if the comments goes so far off topic that it's no longer relevant to the blogs subject many users will initiate a complaint as it's not in the interests of the users for the blog to descend into irrelevance, finally if you consider that abusive comments are such a problem then invoke pre-moderation on the blog, that would be preferable than having such a narrowly defined topic it means that the issues can't be discussed in any detail.

  • Comment number 84.

    Returning to the original post on this blog - because I have been interested in this for some time:

    'We're in the process of reviewing our help pages and notification emails for moderation, and I'd like to ask you for some help.'

    Regarding the 'help pages' - I presume you mean the FAQs? I did suggest on 'The BBC' POV board, last autumn, that a useful addition to these might be a guide on how to post web links (within the House Rules, of course ;-)) as this is a query that frequently comes up from new posters. (It could be added after the bit that says how to quote from a post, for instance.)

    As for the moderation e-mails, it might be helpful to pinpoint more precisely how a poster has broken the House Rules when the reason for removal comes under:

    'Are considered likely to disrupt, provoke, attack or offend others'

    'Contain swear words or other language likely to offend'

    These seem to be the areas that are most prone to inconsistent decisions, as 'offence taken' is a subjective thing and depends on who is reading at the time - but, I truly believe the majority of posters do not set out deliberately to 'offend' others or break the rules. I do not wish to do so myself.

    If any improvements to the moderation e-mails are possible - I appreciate this might be a technical nightmare (!) - I would recommend the above as a priority, as it may well save work for you in the long run.

  • Comment number 85.

    It would be interesting to know Nick why the Guardian choose to remove certain peoples' comments , do you imagine it's for the same reason that you do ?

  • Comment number 86.

    #84. At 5:34pm on 14 Feb 2010, Malyndi wrote:

    "a useful addition to these [FAQs] might be a guide on how to post web links"

    I believe that this has been dealt with, in effect, no HTML knowledge is needed, just paste the full - including the https:// part - URL (web link) onto the page and the full URL will be auto-magically be converted into a clickable link.

    Thus, for example, https://www.bbc.co.uk/ should be a clickable link, once I post this comment (it doesn't become clickable in preview mode).

    If you want to embed a URL then you need to know a bit of raw HTML coding;

    ...blog comment <a href="URL (example as above)">link text</a> blog comment...

    The above will render as: ...blog comment link text blog comment...

    The above should display as a clickable link in preview mode.

    Hope that helps.

  • Comment number 87.

    #85. At 5:41pm on 14 Feb 2010, Curmy wrote:

    "It would be interesting to know Nick why the Guardian choose to remove certain peoples' comments , do you imagine it's for the same reason that you do ?"

    Unless Nick has access to the content that the Guardian has removed how could he even attempt to answer such a question?!...

  • Comment number 88.

    Boilerplated - I have used both premoderation and banning of users. But there are occasions where the best course of action is to close a thread either temporarily or permenantly.

    I am not "attempting to protect others within the BBC". The same House Rules apply to everyone. No person on a BBC social media service should have to suffer abuse, whether they are a commenter, a BBC person who has written a blog post, or a host.

    As I've said before, criticism of the BBC is acceptable. Personal abuse is not. The skill is working out where the line is between the two.

  • Comment number 89.

    Boilerplated, message 86:

    'If you want to embed a URL then you need to know a bit of raw HTML coding'

    Thank you for your comments, but 'not everybody knows that'. ;-) Which is why I am suggesting it be added to the FAQs. Not everybody is 'Internet savvy' - I certainly wasn't when I started posting on message boards, including non-BBC ones! :-D Fortunately, other users helped me with this - but to avoid repeated threads on technical and moderation queries, I would recommend additions to the FAQs/House Rules pages to clarify certain aspects.

  • Comment number 90.

    Re #89, Malyndi, actually I think the BBC have the correct policy, they have created a server-side 'bot' to convert full URLs into a clickable links, the problem is that broken HTML can cause some (strictly compliant) browsers to stall or even crash when they attempt to render corrupt code! Not good...

    It would be nice to have a 'user control panel', were not only URLs but bold, italic and perhaps even other formatting can be added easily added by anyone even if they know nothing about HTML code.

  • Comment number 91.

    Yes, formatting might be nice! But being as the main topic is moderation, I'll just ask again in case my question gets missed:

    Is it even remotely possible to amend the notifications as I suggested in post 84? I know individually-tailored decisions are not possible due to financial/staffing constraints as explained earlier. But I'm sure many would find it helpful to know more specifically where they have 'aberrated' - then they will be less likely to make the same mistake twice!

  • Comment number 92.

    Sorry Nick but a weekend of reflection doesn't seem to have solved any of the problems with hosts moderating their own blogs...

  • Comment number 93.

    I'm not moderating Boilerplated - I'm hosting. I'm doing what every other host does. When I refer a comment for off topic or abuse it goes to the mods.

  • Comment number 94.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 95.

    Why when criticized do postings get deleted? What is the point of opening a discussion on moderation when you can't take any criticism?

    I've just had a post removed on the BBC HD Drama blog as I stated the reason for many people getting frustrated and having heated discussion on there is due to the heavy handed hosting.

  • Comment number 96.

    #93. At 12:27pm on 15 Feb 2010, Nick Reynolds wrote:

    "I'm not moderating Boilerplated - I'm hosting. I'm doing what every other host does."

    But that is the point Nick, no you are not, when three of the most difficult and contentious blogs on the BBC have less host intervention (even at pre-mod) than the BBC HD blogs do something is going amiss...

  • Comment number 97.

    93. At 12:27pm on 15 Feb 2010, Nick Reynolds wrote:

    "When I refer a comment for off topic or abuse it goes to the mods."

    Not according to this reply that was posted to this very blog, let me quote;

    "The decisions on off-topic are referred to the hosts (see earlier comments on this post, followed up in a similar post on the PM blog). The mods work across all services and the editorial owners of a board or blog are better positioned to make a call on this."

    So, lets see, you complain about what you consider an off topic comment, the mods then ask you (as host (or proxy to the host) to judge if the comment is actually off topic. As I said, Judge, Jury and Exacutionar...

  • Comment number 98.

    It's the host's job to judge what is off topic, whichever route it comes by.

  • Comment number 99.

    Re 98: I think the word we are looking for is "Autocratic", someone being able to wish something was so (comments being off topic in this case), then by reporting it, knowing that the mods will refer the comment straight back to yourself for a decision, the rules (as to what is off topic) are made up as it goes along, all in the name of "official policy"...

  • Comment number 100.

    Nick, do you think your over the top 'hosting' although I would call it moderating adds fuel to the fire on certain blogs?


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