A new appeals process for the moderation of blogs, message boards and communities
Most people who leave comments on the BBC's blogs, message boards and communities will never get a comment rejected by the moderators, and many of you that do will understand why. But there are times when you need more information so you better understand the rules, and there are times when the mods do get it wrong. So today we are launching a new appeals process for moderation.
When I ran my moderation 'clinics' last year on the PM and BBC Internet blogs and the Points of View message board, I found that many of the same questions about moderation kept cropping up, and some of you also told me that you rarely got an answer if you replied directly to the moderation emails you were sent. So firstly, we had to make sure that you did get replies when you ought to, and secondly that more FAQs would often help you find that information for yourself.
It's taken far longer than I would have liked, but a few weeks ago we introduced a redesigned help section for the BBC message boards with expanded FAQs about moderation and added more information to the BBC blogs help. And today we are introducing a new appeals process for the times when you feel the moderators have got it seriously wrong.
The old system relied on you responding to a moderation email and was devised when we had half a dozen community sites using the DNA moderation system. However, with nearly 300 different blogs, boards, community sites and comments systems now using DNA, it became impossible to even maintain the folders, let alone ensure that all the teams responsible were responding to your moderation queries. Often, the sheer volume of moderation emails - particularly if someone had gone on the rampage with the alert button - made it very hard for teams to find your mails. In time we'd like to find a more elegant way to inform you that your comment has been removed, but for now we had to continue using email.
As well as all the email folders, people who wanted to complain about moderation would write to radio station and TV programme inboxes, post to the boards, phone BBC information or email the BBC Complaints department (who only handle complaints regarding content produced by the BBC, not by the public as your messages and comments are). This all caused duplication and wasted your licence fee.
So from now on, my team will handle all appeals and complaints in the first instance, asking hosts, bloggers or production teams for more information if necessary. The moderation failure emails are shorter and contain a link to more information about the rule your contribution was deemed to have broken. If you wish to appeal you can contact us via the feedback forms on /blogs and /messageboards. You will get an initial response within 10 working days, and if you are unhappy with the outcome, an opportunity to continue with the appeal procedure. If you have restrictions placed on your account, you can also appeal with the new process.
There are some conditions for appeals and we also ask that you make the basis of your appeal clear - general comments about moderation, the BBC, or the state of Britain today will be read but won't result in the decision about your comment being reviewed. So please say why you consider your post didn't break the rule that it was failed under. Remember the appeal is about your contribution, so "but he was doing it too!" does not constitute an appeal.
For some of our, um, more regular correspondents, we also now have an expedited complaints policy. Sadly, looking at our inbox it seems I also need to point out that any abusive emails will be ignored and might result in a ban if unpleasant enough.
Nobody likes having their comment removed, or their alert rebuffed by the mods, so moderation will never be the most popular aspect of the BBC website. But I hope these changes will help to make moderation clearer, fairer, and more consistent.
Note: I've generally linked to the help material on /blogs here, but all the appeals info is also on the messageboard help pages.
Paul Wakely is Editor, Moderation Services, BBC Online.