Sky News Discussion Boards
February 19, 2008

By Simon Bucks, Associate Editor

OK, first the apology. We have had a technical problem with the discussion boards which allows perverse individuals to block other people's identities. It's an anti-spamming device but it worked in a way we hadn't expected. The law of unintended consequences. We are working on fixing it, hopefully today.

Yes, it was mistake on our part, and it has taken a while to figure out the problem, so we apologise for that. Contrary to some views, we do care about the forums and we invest a lot in making them run properly.

But let's be clear:  it's the troublemakers who are actually responsible for messing things up.    

When we launched the discussion boards last year, we expected a sprinkling of people might want to spoil it for the sensible majority. But we took the view that we should have a light touch moderation policy.

That means that comments on the boards go straight up, and only come down if someone complains.

Other news site discussion boards pre-moderate everything. I have posted comments on them, and got fed up waiting to see them appear. On the Sky boards you can have a free-flowing conversation, as long as you keep to the rules. From the comments, many people enjoy this and find the discussions stimulating and interesting.

Which would be fine, if everyone behaved like adults rather than spoilt children. Sadly they don't. A few comments are unsavoury and abusive.

So my question to the board-users is this: have you got any ideas for keeping away the trouble-makers and ensuring the discussion boards are always a fun place to talk about the news? All contributions gratefully received.

Written by Sky News, February 19, 2008



Can Sky’s online active discussion forums really be trusted and are they safe for everyone to use? IMO it seems not:

Apart from being subjected to all the past so-called zapping on Sky’s discussions boards, on the 16/04/08 I had my good username and preputation cloned and mimicked by someone, or some people, on (or within) Sky's forums.
While reading through threads and posts I have seen many forum members complaining in their posts about Sky’s online discussion forum boards that their forum IDs have been either zapped (so-called) or cloned in some way. I believe whoever is able to do these sorts of things do so to try and dominate the boards, discussions and free public debates to their favour and/or to discredit good posts, views and comments.
In my case it seems that whoever recently cloned my forum username ID on Sky’s forums has been making false claims, and/or direct allegations, that I am a gay or lesbian or bisexual, which is totally not true. I am not any of these things, as I am 100% straight and straight minded by choice and gender, and I have absolutely no apologies whatsoever to make to anyone as I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to do so.
Whoever recently cloned my username ID has also made a thread using my username to make totally unnecessay false apologies on my behalf. How they did this I do not know, because the cloned username appears to look identical to mine in every way.

During my experience since joining Sky’s discussion boards I’v noticed that many of Sky’s online discussion board members appear to have been subjected to all sorts and kinds of DIRECT verbal abuse and threats, some of very serious nature, and I myself may have been subjected to, or have been victim to, a lot of that's listed – and/or to a lot of what’s listed in the supposed forum board rules.

Apart from contributing good posts on issues that I think matter, I cannot see where I have broken any rules, but I can clearly see where others have and do.

If open free good debate causes stress, as much as it has for me, why are people encouraged and invited to have open free discussion and debate?

CONCERNS AND RECOMMENDATIONS I THINK SHOULD BE CONSIDERED: IMO Sky should have their online live active discussion and debate boards better monitored and better run to prevent some members from preventing everyone else from freely and properly having their say and debate. It is not nice having your forum ID cloned and this is concerning, as IMO if people can clone members forum IDs on Sky’s forum boards they may be able to do this on other public forums too. Also if people can do this type of thing, how safe are public forums and people’s IDs attached to them? Perhaps Sky should give out clear warnings to people wishing to join that not all free speech and views are welcome - and/or that once a member, members take their own risks of becoming subjected to any or all of the above online abuses? Another concern is what kind of moderators do Sky use and/or could any of Sky’s moderators used be responsible for any of the above? Do Sky keep proper checks on what goes on on these their boards?

Since joining Sky’s forum boards, if any of my contributed posted views and comments have helped raise some good questions, concerns and interest on issues that should matter to us all I can only feel and be proud.
So if anyone hereafter tries to clone or mimic my good username and reputation (including the other usernames I had to use in the past during and due to the past so-called zappings) to make any false apologies on my behalf, any and all such apologies will be totally false apologies and will NOT have come from me. I would like to make this clear.

I feel I have no reason to apologize for any of my posted views and comments since joining these boards. My experience on Sky’s forums (which is my first and only experience on a live active forum, has not bee good or nice. IMO Sky’s discussion boards more often than not seem more like online dating chat rooms and it seems that there are some members who use, and are allowed to use, these boards for very wrong reasons. All this puts people like me off posting.

Thank you for receiving my views and comments.

Dear Simon Bucks

Despite what you say above, forgive me for replying with a great deal of scepticism. You have allowed abusers to continue posting on this board, abusers who have used the most disgusting insults against me and other Palestinian/Islam supporters here, whereas you have banned me and others of my persuasion from your board. One poster, who continues untouched, used German insults like "******" and other equally reprehensible insults, other used words like "nazi anti-semite" , or used the "anti-semite" smear often and without justification several times, and still does, and yet remains on the board. I repeat what I said below: you and your board of moderators/editors are biased against the Palestinian/Islamic posters on the board. You and your colleagues are obviously influenced by the Israel lobby.

Hi all, many thanks for your constructive suggestions which I've taken note of and will digest. Some are practicable, others are not.
I think we have reinstated all the zapped users on the discussion boards, apart from those whose accounts were deleted for abuse. You'll know who you are, I hope. If your account is still not working feel free to e mail messages@skynews.co.uk. Please don't post questions about your individual accounts on the blogs for obvious security reasons.

To all who asked about our design - I think Paul Bromley has answered those on his Viewpoint blog. (I apologise for not coming back sooner but I have been busy!) To add my two pennyworth now - a TV news channel or a website is a bit like the Forth Bridge - it's always being painted, but not always so you'd notice! Some changes will be so tiny you might not notice, others will be larger and more noticeable. When there's something big to discuss, we'll no doubt talk about it here. The main thing you should know is that we really appreciate your interest and are always happy to hear your views!

Dear Simon Bucks

There has been no response from you or your colleagues regarding my complaint which I backed up with examples of abuse from the Israeli lobbyists on this board. It is now clear to all of us on the Palestinian side of this struggle that your board is biased against us and that the Israel lobby has influenced your organisation as much as it has influenced other media in the UK and the USA. Let this note be a clarion call to the anti-zionist cause here and everywhere in the western world.

Dear Simon Bucks

I am still blocked from the message boards here but my accusers and detractors go untouched. Either you must ban all abusers without fear or favour, or you must allow all posts. You cannot apply selective justice.

1. When a post is reported then replace it with a small post stating that a post made by so-and-so was deleted by so-and-so. No-one likes to be a killjoy and this may help dissuade serial offenders. That way the reporting function can be retained for genuine offences.

2. Possibly get the person reporting a post to enter a short reason and display the reason alongside point 1.

3. Allow readers to view reported posts - UNDER CAUTION THAT IT MAY BE OFFENSIVE - until such time as a human moderator has reinstated or deleted the reported post

What the heck is going on- I have emailed sky twice to ask why I can't log in for the past 3 days and have had no response. Considering I have in the past appeared on sky news and am regularly contacted for my assistance for "sources" for stories, I am not impressed- particularly as since I have been unable to log in, there have been very nasty attacks against me that are abusive. I have therefore been unable to defend myself or correct information in the public domain. That is clearly not only unfair, but also unjust and could be a breach of my human rights.

Thanks to everyone who has left comments here, which I will read carefully. Sorry- we had to take the boards down for a while last night, to do the repair. We think we have solved the zapping problem now. If you believe your ID has been zapped please e mail messages@skynews.co.uk by next Monday evening and we'll try to reinstate you. We won't reinstate anyone whose account we have deleted because of abuse, though.
Once again, sorry about the problems.

It is clear to me and others, I am sure, that there is a sort of lynch justice being applied here against me and other left of centre posters. I have been totally blocked from the board and cannot post. This group which comprises a number of constant troublemakers, are crying "innocence" and shouting about me reporting their deliberate abuse and off-topic comments which they spam on my threads. An example is my "USA fake democracy" thread in which constant insults were posted by these people, and my replies were constantly deleted by them. Then, their tactics changed, and they started rubbishing everything I wrote in the most irritating off-topic manner that they could think of. You have to understand this is a deliberate political campaign against anti-zionist posters such as myself. They initiate the abuse and off-topic rubbishing of threads, reporting and deleting thereof, and then cry "foul" when they are reported. It is absolutely inexcusable that I should be singled out while they remain untouched and unblocked.

I look forward to some feedback from the editors and moderators on this. A mere glance at some of my threads on the World News board and at other threads should suffice for proof of what I am saying.

Why can't anyone logg in again??
Was yesterday a one day thing to keep everyone happy?

Oh, I give up!!!

Well I have been the target of an individual who deleted my username 15 times and was the target of terrible homophobic abuse. And this morning knowing that you have reinstated the original IDs I went to try mine but surprise I can't log in. I am really disappointed because it would show that Sky forums favour the troll and bullies. Can you explain to me why the USER ID David has not been reinstated?

Thank you

What is going on now? I got my username back yesterday and now I can't log in again.

Lefties have recieved a damn good thrashing on the threads recently and I suspect it is one of they who is the perverse individual.
Lets hope this dosn't lead to these boards being heavily moderated. I enjoy the rough and tumble on here.
I have been called every name under the sun on here, but I can handle it. If you can't stand the heat, then stay out of the kitchen.

Moderate the word Madeleine and any similar derivitive. Problem solved overnight.

[“The first thing that should be removed is the ability of posters to delete messsages. It is supposed be that the user complains about a post and the mods then decide whether to delete it, leave it or edit the unsavoury bits out….”
Posted by: Lederhoden]

I agree with this above comment and that there should be live moderators on all live discussion boards.

I have been totally shocked and disgusted at the level of personal verbal abuse, bullying and foul language being used and directed at posters simply for having taken part in threads/discussions on Sky’s discussion boards.

I myself have also been set upon, chased and bullied and zapped off these boards approx. 4 times for no apparent reason, yet I never use foul language and have only ever been interested in taking part in good debate on the hot topics and issues seen raised.

The troublemakers and bullies always seemed able to control, bully and run the boards by reporting all the posts they didn’t agree with, and or by somehow deleting and or blocking all the posters’ IDs who they disliked, for no real apparent reason. It seemed to be the troublemakers doing all the deleting, blocking, reporting and blocking IDs.

I like to tink I am a tolerant patient fair-minded person who can debate well and so I have never felt the need to press the report button once and have never pressed the report button. Also I have never deleted any posts, as firstly I have never felt the want or need to do so and secondly I wouldn't know how to delete other peope's posts or IDs. However, some bullies and troublemakers have directly accused me and many others of doing these things for some reason.

Sky should ensure their live discussion boards are properly monitored by their own trainded live moderators to ensure that everyone has a fair say on both sides of the debates with issues raised, otherwise there’s no point in joining in with debate. Also the threads that are considered to have been started with intention to stir trouble should not be allowed to remain on the boards.

Although I don't start, or put up, my own threads, I have been put off taking part in threads on these discussion boards and will not want to take part in them while they are badly run. I hope good improvements will be made for everyone in future for free and fair discussion and debate.

It's obvious to anyone with any sense that there is one particular poster and their multiple personalities, that is causing a lot of problems on these boards.
Whilst i would sypathise with anyone who suffers from such a severe mental illness, i feel that it would be unfair to let this individual continue to spoil the enjoyment of the other sensible posters on the board.

It seems that all is not quite well yet with the discussion boards. I hope that a conclusion will finally be posted to clarify the situation and its resolution.

Banning IP addresses seems to me to be the only way forward. The banning of usernames is not a sufficent deterent. As we've exerienced over the last number of days, it is very easy to get a new eamil account.

it seems to be one particular poster who has created many user names that seems to be causing most of the problems on these boards.
A way has to be found to bar this individual from posting his /her abusive threads that seem to be aimed at certain groups on posters purely based on a difference of political opinion and narrow minded prejudices.

Really, some posters above just want anyone banned because they have a little grumble with them and can't take the heated exchanges on a live board.

Kitchen - Heat springs to mind.

I say get real and wake up.
This is a live forum, you get banter and live opinion which at times you may find offensive but it's for real and it's what makes the board what it is.

Personally, I don't want anyone banned and I don't want it moderated, but I do want a 'moaner' to be known to the board, so if a post is deleted then the person who complained should have their name in the box saying deleted by so and so.

Also, some smiley's would be good along with the ability to place avatars on there so as you can identify posters quickly.

Someone mentioned an ignore button too which sounds good.

As for having disagreement or offense thrown at you, I believe in free speech and the right to speak you mind is sacrosanct.

1 - Either remove the Report Button or if used ID the deleter responsible!
2 - Wipe out all existing User Names/Passwords, there must be dozens unused in the system.
3 - Increase confirmable information requirements at the time of Registering.
4 - Obviously something you are already working on, increase the access security in a bid to prevent hackers who have worked at screwing the system.
5 - Good luck!

Naturally any profanity filter whether embedded within the site or controlled at source will be as effective as the words allowed to filter through.
Life as we know it, can be as colourful without such perverse words, whist being the best blog site, it is hardly surprising that many would want to be seen to be heard.
So, as [Elvis Presley] said [Retrun To Sender] in order that resources can be best used to assist those who the BBC claim not to have received their M&S vouchers for introducing a friend to Sky. So how about if you introduce a friend to http://www.sky.com and they then activate their Sky account, Sky send M&S a data list of account numbers that have been activated and the introducer then visit their local M&S store to collect their vouchers. Obviously for security reasons, the introducer will have certain elements kept secret whilst going through the POS.

Thanks for every one taking part..It is very easy to stop members blocking eachother !!
user name and password should be used just to log in then an added nickname to be visible to everyone so no one else knows my user name ..Does it make sense??
About the mockers on the site we can have a random topic moderator same as what bingo website do ..they never have a problem even it is a bingo site...That is my idea anyway ...Thanks for reading.

Too little, too late I'm afraid.

The damage has already been done, and it would take a major overhaul to restore confidence in this forum.

I'm not sure you value you it enough.

i do not want moderators who post on the sky forums. This means they get to play 'GOD' with other peoples comments and then an outbreak of bad feeling will ensue.
Moderators should be independent employees of sky who DO NOT post on the boards but just keep an eye open. It is not the bad comments as such, that cause the problems, but the 'zapping' of peoples ID's. Debates will often turn into arguments, and everyone should be entitled to have their say, whatever their beliefs. What should NOT be tolerated is the messing with peoples private ID's.
Thank you for listening.

Frankly I find that posters who are able to label fellow posters who disagree with them with such titles as 'nazi. fascist. racist. bootlicker. liar etc. should automatically be banned. In addition to this, they stiffle the discussion by repetively posting cut and paste comments. This should not be allowed.

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