BBC Says It May Contact Your Boss If You Post Comments It Finds Problematic

from the wait,-what? dept

There are all sorts of different ways that websites that allow comments have dealt with trollish behavior over the years, but I think the BBC’s new policy is the first I’ve seen in which the organization threatens that it may contact your boss or your school (found via Frank Fisher).

The new policy has a short section on “offensive or inappropriate content on BBC websites” where it says the following:

Offensive or inappropriate content on BBC websites

If you post or send offensive, inappropriate or objectionable content anywhere on or to BBC websites or otherwise engage in any disruptive behaviour on any BBC service, the BBC may use your personal information to stop such behaviour.

Where the BBC reasonably believes that you are or may be in breach of any applicable laws (e.g. because content you have posted may be defamatory), the BBC may use your personal information to inform relevant third parties such as your employer, school email/internet provider or law enforcement agencies about the content and your behaviour.

To be fair, it does seem to limit this to cases where it believes you’ve violated the law, but even so, it seems like a stretch to argue that the BBC should be calling your boss to tell on you for being a dipshit online, even if you break the law. We’ve all seen the stories of people actually confronting their own trolls or, better yet, the mothers of their trolls, but to make it official BBC policy seems to be going a bit far. Sure, if someone is breaking a criminal law, informing the police sounds perfectly reasonable, but your boss or your school?

Anyway, I guess be forewarned: if you don’t want the BBC telling your boss you’re a jerk online, maybe don’t be a jerk on the BBC’s website.

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Comments on “BBC Says It May Contact Your Boss If You Post Comments It Finds Problematic”

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Anonymous Coward says:

>I guess be forewarned: if you don’t want the BBC telling your boss you’re a jerk online, maybe don’t be a jerk on the BBC’s website.

Alternatively, don’t post while on the network of the company that you work for, but rather use a public WiFi hotspot.

I assume they will use the posters IP address to identify who to contact, as names used on their site can very well be false.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

That works!

What could possibly go wrong with a policy like this? I mean it’s not like it’s easy to pretend to be someone else on the internet or anything….

Next up:
BBC demands website visitors submit passport, driving license, statements from 3 witnesses and sworn affidavit from a judge as to your identity before being allowed to comment

DannyB (profile) says:

Clearly an attempt at intimidation

Just the headline screams that this is a threat to intimidate people who post contrary opinions.

What will be the result? People will post their contrary opinions on other sites. In fact, everyone including people with agreeable opinions may flee BBC because of the chilling effect.

BBC: no thanks, I can post my opinions in other places without having to think about whether my opinions may or may not offend you.

Kay (profile) says:

Re: Clearly an attempt at intimidation

They’re trying to rid the site of the unbearable amount of trolling and comments that go way beyond just posting a dissenting opinion so that the comments actually generate discussion instead of just heaps of abuse and flame wars.

There are tons of sites that are grappling with this issue, of how to get rid of all the sociopaths and psychopaths (and death threats and other crap) but still preserve the more thoughtful discussions.

I’ve never been a fan of heavy moderation, but I don’t like using the upvote system either (slashdot is one of the worst, also doesn’t anyone watch Black Mirror?). So it will be interesting to see what sort of culling system that various sites end up settling on to deal with this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ha! I’m a private contractor and in a different country!
So as long as I’m not overly drunk when I write something, I already know what I wrote…
And good luck telling my Mom unless they wanna use a ouija board, she has been dead for decades…
But at this point or at least at some point in the near future I just assume the collective shame of humanity known as our “elected officials” (can anyone at this point say that without snickering) will have so sold out our rights in pursuit of their glorious careers, that everything I say or write will be recorded, collected or analyzed somewhere or somehow.
The real problem is the constant erosion of lines… What is snarky or sarcastic one day can be considered trolling or aggressive the next.
Walking the tightrope of censorship will inevitably lead to a fall.

Jordan Chandler (profile) says:


1st off, fuck the BBC, they can report me to whoever they want.

2nd, do they really have the time and resources to track down the anonymous commenters, find their IP addresses then determine which of the hundreds or thousands of people at that address are the individual, and then determine who their employer is and THEN tell them that they were legally expressing their opinion in a way that hurts their feelings?

Cowardly Lion says:


Answer to the 2nd, yes, the BBC are awash with idle hands. Lets not forget they are funded by a special “UK TV tax” to the tune of several billion quids each year.

My response to the 1st – I think it’d be quite fun to register on as oh I don’t know Sean Spicer, spoof the White House ip, then go off on a rant about pinko commie fag subversives…

[nb in case anyone’s offended – the reference is an obscure cultural one from ’80s UK TV presenter / DJ Kenny Everett

Chuck says:

Nice try

Two things here. First, my boss is my mother, and as I answer all the phones, all the email, and even read all the faxes before she sees any of it, good luck telling her anything. (Not that it would matter. I’m no troll and we agree on almost everything politically.)

Second, since when are the BBC’s comment moderators legal scholars? I mean, in order to “reasonably believe” that my post is illegal, they’d have to know the laws relating to libel, slander, etc., in virtually every country on earth. Hell, those laws aren’t even the same across the US, so at minimum, we’re talking 300+ federal laws and an additional 50 state laws (plus likely some differences in provinces of other nations too.)

And third, I guess: If the BBC’s comment moderators ARE actually this sort of world-class legal scholars, what the hell are they doing moderating comments on a web site? They could be faculty at Oxford with that sort of knowledge!

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: It's the only way to be.


People living in civilized society are expected to follow cultural norms so they can rub along together with minimal friction and upset.

Online anonymity (or pseudonymity) allows people to get away with all sorts of rude, boorish, insulting behavior that most of them would never consider if their real name, and personal reputation, were involved.

In offline life, people talk one way within an intimate circle of friends, and another much more polite way in public.

Online comments are more like graffiti than civil conversation. It’s an extremely widespread problem that nobody really knows how to deal with.

This is part of the general flailing in response to trolling. I don’t think it’s a good idea, or will work, but it’s to be expected that random weird ideas will get tried until somebody comes up with a good solution.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 it just takes a bit of subtlety

That’s arguable. Some kinds of subtle trolling are actually worse than the obvious sorts; if the troll can convince or otherwise maneuver people into having the disruptive-of-meaningful-discourse argument on their own, rather than the troll having to hold up (at least one side of) the argument entirely on his/her/etc. own efforts, that actually does more damage while at the same time being easier and more satisfying for the original troll.

PJ says:

I worked for some years in a country where the employees of a humanitarian organisation I worked for seemed to spend an absolutely inordinate amount of time circulating chain letters to their friends by email. In terms of mail system storage, backup and recovery times, and bandwidth it amounted to a horrendous tax on resources, bordering on sabotage, and of course it was a violation of policy.

Typically each piece of this junk that came in got passed around internally and then amplified — sent out many times — and of course sent back some more.

As part of discouraging it I let it be known that incoming message traffic found to be in violation of policy on official use could be returned to the postmaster of originating organisations. Subsequently it wasn’t necessary to read mail or even actually return messages as quite a lot could be deduced using a traffic analysis solution I used. A few generically worded messages copied to the right people and their postmaster was sufficient. The message was simple: unusual volumes of traffic may be investigated and if found to be of an unofficial nature could lead to mail from the originating domain being blocked from sending to ours.

80% of the traffic concerned came from the same few organisations and all it needed was the word to go round.

I see no reason whatever why the BBC should not report threatening, abusive or illegal behaviour online to the originating organisations if they can be identified. I would draw the line at people’s private conduct however, that is none of their employer’s business. The key question is whose resources were used.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Define "problematic."

Like, "The BBC hires people and lets them sexually abuse young people for years!" problematic, or…?

It’s apparently up to the discretion of people at the BBC to decide what is problematic and what is not. For example, I imagine they might find what you posted about them to be "problematic."

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

‘Where the BBC reasonably believes’

While I know the content cartels like to think of themselves as a special sort of law enforcement, this is over the line.

You think they broke the law, turn them over to actual authorities. Aren’t there enough cases world wide where innocent people we screwed by trolls or idiots who don’t understand the tech? Do they think reasonable belief will protect them in court, in a country with INSANE libel laws?
You go to John Smiths employer & report these posts you claim are his but they aren’t. How many 0’s on the check? How many times do they need to pay out before they figure out they are better off providing content & not quasi-legal policing of the world?

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