BBC undoubtedly will put more resources into moderating the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum. It is an issue that confronts every Internet publisher, and in this instance, the BBC got stung.
In the wake of a temporary shutdown of Lonely Planet‘s Thorn Tree travel forum because of “rogue posts,” the company will not reopen it until “we are 100% confident that the right new moderation systems are in place to ensure there’s no repeat of such language/themes,” a BBC spokesperson says.
“We have discovered instances of inappropriate language and themes on Thorn Tree and until we are confident that all rogue posts can be identified and appropriate action taken, we feel we have no option but to temporarily close the site as a precautionary measure,” says Philip Fleming, a spokesperson for BBC Worldwide, which owns Lonely Planet.
Fleming denies reports that some forum discussions revolved around pedophilia, but does say some inapprorpiate language was uncovered.
It seems that Lonely Planet’s moderation methods were not up to the task.
The forum was moderated “reactively” on a 24-hour basis,” Fleming says.
The monitoring system, he adds, included “a mix of moderation of new messages, keyword alerts, and response to reporting by users. We’re trying to determine how such inappropriate language and themes came to be posted.”
The BBC spokesperson declined to specify when he thought Thorn Tree, which is currently blocked off to users, would reappear.
Asked whether the discovery of the problematic posts might be tied to any due diligence being conducted amidst the news that Lonely Planet is for sale, Fleming said: “Lonely Planet is a fantastic brand and we’re not going to comment on speculation about it’s future.”
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Photo credit: A screenshot of Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum from 2008. Tyler Bell's Blog