The BNP on Question Time: the view from the User Generated Content hub

I put a few questions to Matthew Eltringham from the BBC’s UGC Hub on how the team dealt with comments from users during last night’s controversial Question Time debate featuring the BNP’s Nick Griffin. Here are his responses in full:

How did the volume of contributions to Have Your Say etc. compare with a typical Question Time?

Because of the way we structured the HYS round this QT the statistical comparisons can’t be exact.

This time we ran a programme based messageboard from first thing in the morning; usually it is launched much later in the afternoon. The number of responses to that debate — and the one we set up this morning on the impact of the QT has been extraordinary; an average programme-based QT HYS might get a couple of hundred comments; this one got more than 10,000.

And by 1130 this morning we have already received nearly 2,000 for a new messageboard about the impact — again a very, very big and fast response from the audience.

An interesting statistical comparison is the response to the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to President Obama, when over the same period of time we recieved about the same number of comments – though the audience was a more global audience in that case. And interestingly, we had a bigger response on HYS than any of the big US media organisations in their comment forums.

How did the hub prepare for that – did it do anything special for this broadcast?

We brought in extra staff to cope with the expected work load, especially in the evening around the programme transmission; we also discussed appropriate moderation as we were aware there would be some tricky issues.

How would you describe the balance of reaction that was coming in in terms of pro- and anti-BNP?

There were three clear strands of opinion — those who disagreed with the BBC’s decision to put Nick Griffin on QT; those who articulated their support for Nick Griffin and the BNP; and those who either didn’t offer any view on Griffin/ BNP or said they weren’t supporters but strongly argued that he should be allowed on the programme. This third strand was the largest.

A couple of people suggested that some comments were part of an “organised trolling campaign – the same typos keep recurring in several posts – ‘BMP'” – what is the policy on that? Do you look for repeated IP addresses, or copy & paste jobs?

We have very clear House rules against spamming and if – amongst the 10,000 comments that came in – we detect any organised campaign we would act on that by moderating the spam out. We don’t have any technology to help us with that.

We make it very clear that HYS is a manifestation of the balance of opinion recieved by us, reflecting the views of the members of the audience that wish to contribute. It’s not scientific, nor is it a balanced opinion.

12 thoughts on “The BNP on Question Time: the view from the User Generated Content hub

  1. Pingback: How ‘Nutter’ Griffin Matched Nobel Obama « Jon Bernstein

  2. Murray Dick

    Many comments from the ‘Nick Griffin was bullied’ camp on HYS last night contained what looked like mistakes made while typing at speed, rather than genuine spelling errors.

    We already know the BNP encrypt their online material (after the Guardian investigation in 2006), so its not so much of a leap of faith to assume that a hardcore of BNP members could organise an online campaign using an IP anonymiser (and anonymous email addresses) to get round spam and troll filters/policies.

    We also know that the leadership have previously sent round material asking BNP members not to declare their membership when organising protest (last seen during their attempts to have racist former teacher Adam Walker reinstated). From hiding your affiliation to hiding your agenda, I can’t help but feel the martyr angle has been engineered almost exclusively by BNP activists.

    You have to wonder where was the BNP support on Twitter last night. I saw virtually none – it seems that they took a look at those issues which trended big over the past couple of weeks (and saw the growing hostility to Griffin) and decided to try and cordon off their own area of hyperspace to concentrate impact.

    I’ve got about 50 pages from last night and 50 from today’s HYS, but don’t have time today to go through them today. Would be great to have an Analysts Notebook type piece of software to seek out any consistency in phrasing etc.

    Would also be interesting to see if there were any unusual spikes in new membership of HYS, or unusual activity in othwerwise dormant accounts.

  3. Englishman

    It would appear from a quick look at HYS and the Sky News comments that a lot of the entries were suspiciously similar. Lots of repeated phrases following the same pattern.

    Also seems a high number of “recomends” for each of the comments – would be interesting to see if these are consistent with historic trends.

    Given the potential impact of these comments, I think measures to screen for trolling campaigns should be stepped up.

  4. Jane

    Surely anyone mispelling the BNP as BMP repeatedly would be a troll who DISAGREED with the party. I know some opposers of the BNP are convinced the letters stand for “British Man’s Party”.

  5. Murray Dick

    Surely anyone mispelling the BNP as BMP repeatedly would be a troll who DISAGREED with the party. I know some opposers of the BNP are convinced the letters stand for “British Man’s Party”.
    _ _ _ _ _

    Not if it was a mistake made in haste. If you’re trying to bang out as many messages as possible in a given time, its likely you’ll make the same mistypes. I spotted 7 mentions of BMP, only one was anti-BNP.

  6. Englishman

    I can almost imagine the BNP party members organising themselves for this as soon as NG’s place on the panel was confirmed. It is one of the few avenues they have to directly reach a large target audience, and a way of giving an impression of an “underlying” support that is not reflected in the mainstream media.

    If nothing else, the huge number of pro-BNP policy comments is suprising, given what polls tell us about the views of British people.

    But it would be difficult to stop… its one thing spotting similar mistakes, but how can you detect small but well motivated groups with multiple log-ins posting (and recomending) multiple messages? They had time to prepare after all.

    Even if they went over the top, the 1000 anti-facist protesters at least made a public statement of their beliefs – the deluge of HYS and Sky News comments could easily have been made by a handful of similarly committed but secretive racists.

  7. Jenni

    Excuses, excuses.
    Sit around for another few more hours and you might be able to come up with some more bull crap as an excuse.
    The simple fact of the matter is that the BNP has obviously hit a raw nerve with the truth and people are starting to come out of the woodwork in their thousands to say what they have only been thinking for the last 20 to 30 years. Enough is enough we have as much right as well as the lefies and Muslim fanatics out there to have a say as well.
    The sooner that you bunch of drongos learn that this still is a democratic country the better.
    Cheers, have a great day.
    Brit in Aussie.
    PS By the way plenty of support for the BNP over here as well.
    So put that in all your lefty dope pipes and smoke it!

  8. Jack Heerenveen

    I watched the QT. I read the Guardian online regularly anyway plus other international news sites. I have been googling ‘question time’ and that is how i reach this blog (not actually sure what blog it is but see this thread).

    Suprised..well disappointed these last few weeks to see how immature the ‘left-wing’, unscrupulous, fascist actually so many of them are. Using fascist and undemocratic tactics, black properganda – more and more frantically to prevent democratic debate and zero-in on the real proposals. Just reading through this thread – quite bizarre almost a mccarthyite paranoia that supportive or sympathetic comments appearing on news sites are probably the result of a organised campaign by a ‘team’ of BNP activits.

    did you know that the British Union of Fascists was a Labour splinter group created by Labour minister Oswald Moseley?

    are you aware that there are people of various ‘color’ oppossed to the economic consequences of unmoderated immigration?

    Guys, please take it from a moderate, liberal, peaceful person. These are mainstream reactions from mainstream people. Left wing peer groups acting astounded and shocked by the grass-roots reactions to the QT debacle are real. The fascism in actuality is coming from people like the UAF and the autocratic Labour government. Please wake up. thanks.

    Jack, London, England.

  9. Mike @ Buzzchow

    I watched the whole QT on YouTube a couple of days after the actual show. For me, they didn’t give him enough rope to hang himself. Let the man speak. He’s obviously a liar. People can see that.

  10. Englishman

    There are real issues to debate about immigration, religion and freedom of speach. There are no easy answers, and everyone has a right to their own opinion even if others find it disgusting.

    But the risk is that lies are becoming accepted as truth, like the bizzare fantasy that immigrants get priority for housing (see for independant research) or that the Holocaust was faked (please…).

    Scapegoating plays to a real human instinct to blame “them” for everthing. Its behind every genocide and massacre in history – from the Hutsis to the Nazis.

    Remeber your GSCE history lessons on propaganda? The BNP are leading ordinary people down a dark path with their manipulation and image management. They want to channel your (often justified) anger for their own purposes.

    And its a powerful tactic, which seems to be working – hence the views on this page that anyone that hates the BNP must by definition be “lefty”.

  11. james

    Hello Jenni, from a fellow brit in aussie land, agree with you completely, the worm is being to turn , APHOS, 2000 YEARS AGO thous that try to please everone in the end please no oneI think the british donkey has well and truely fallen of the bridge and is drowning.


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