Friday, June 01, 2007

Censored comments from BBC online drug debates

There is a simple but rather clever website called News Sniffer that monitors the BBC online 'have your say' discussions, logging all the comments that are subsequently removed (it also monitors news feeds from the Guardian, BBC and independent websites and shows how stories are frequently reshaped and edited over time).

It's interesting to look through some of the recent discussions on drug policy issues and see what was not considered, for whatever reason, fit for public consumption. Many of the remarks contain offensive comments (so at this point I should say: *warning: possible offensive comments*), or are just nasty, but others seem largely reasonable, or just stupid (not actively offensive) and the reasons for their removal remain somewhat mysterious. It may be because site users request removal using the 'alert a moderator' button - but this still requires BBC staff to make a judgement on a removal. I'm not suggesting there's anything sinister or big-brother like going on here, but its an interesting peek behind the curtain at how our biggest media outlet subtly shapes the debate.

Below I've linked a few of the recent BBC discussions so you can see the comments that made the cut, and then provided links to the News Sniffer listings of those comments that got the chop:

Should heroin be given on the the NHS?
BBC online link - removed comments

Should addicts get vouchers for staying clean ?
BBC online link - removed comments

Do drug laws need a major overhaul?
BBC online link - removed comments

Do you care about Cameron's past?
BBC online link - removed comments

Can alcopop tax tackle binge drinking?
BBC online link - removed comments

Are drugs a problem in your area?
BBC online link - removed comments

Should cannabis be legal for medicinal use?
BBC online link - removed comments


Jamie said...

One of the deleted comments in the Heroin Prescrition debate is:

"I'm quite worried by the number of people that think it would make more sense to just lock up people for being addicted to a drug. I didn't know this was a right wing state. Drug users are only crimals because the law makes them crimals. If the law made drinking illegal then I bet alot of you would be happy to break the law. Drug users are normal people who have an addiction to somthing that is illegal. If it was legal for them to get then they wouldn't have to go to crimals organision and pay their jacked up prices. Therefore they wouldn't go out and steal it from other people. Another thing- This was said by a policeman and nothing from the NHS so stop blaming them for it"

What is wrong that that comment? I can clearly see why most of the comments have been deleted, but it makes you wonder how often good ones like this are removed as well...

Steve R said...

I also wondered about that one.

SciencePunk said...

Is it possible that some of the comments were removed because they didn't add anything to the debate? I.e. were too similar to another post or simply double posts?

I realise a lot of the stuff that *does* get on there is pretty superfluous, but still...

Steve R said...

i think its possible. but doubele posting is one thing, irrelevance is another value judgement, and its still interesting to see what is deemed 'offensive or unsuiitable'