Offensive statements about Prime Minister John Key and his late mother were posted on a video on RNZ’s Checkpoint with John Campbell Facebook page, attracting several OMSA complaints.
One complainant, M Lubbock, said the comments went “far beyond any legitimate criticism of John Key and into territory inciting his murder and comments about wishing his mother had died in the gas chamber.”
The comments were incredibly vile. And they were up for several days.
Multiple complainants expressed concern about their “seriously offensive” nature, as well as the time it took for them to be deleted. They provided links to WhaleOil and KiwiBlog posts outlining the threatening comments, which OMSA accepted as evidence.
The value of screenshots!
They were posted between Friday, February 19 and Sunday, February 21, with the bulk being made over the weekend. RNZ’s community engagement editor removed all offensive posts on Sunday afternoon and raised the page’s profanity filter to block out any further comments containing expletives.
In multiple responses to the complaints, RNZ repeatedly told OMSA it took down the comments as soon as it saw them appear. However, OMSA ruled RNZ should have instructed staff to actively monitor the page from Friday, when it first became aware of any offensive comments.
If they were aware of them on Friday, that is when they should have taken them down.
I don’t think publishers should be liable for comments that they have not seen. But an organisation with $35 million in taxpayer funding should be more pro-active in checking than Radio NZ was.
The OMSA ruling is here. Some extracts:
The Publisher removed several offensive comments on Friday, 19 February. However, further comments were made on Saturday and Sunday. RNZ said once they were made aware of the new comments they were removed, several people were banned from the Facebook page and some comments were reported to Facebook. RNZ also confirmed that as a result of comments made on Saturday, 20 February and Sunday, 21 February, it raised the Facebook “profanity filter” to help in automatically moderating the user generated content.
Some of the worst comments were made on Friday or even Thursday. They were obviously not removed. And you would thin that if they had seen where it was heading on Friday, they would have kept an eye on it.
This was not one or two inappropriate comments. Over 100 comments (out of 400) had to be removed. It was basically an antire page dominated by vile threats and hatred.
However, taking into account the extreme nature of the user generated content, the Committee found the steps taken by RNZ were not sufficiently timely. It held that RNZ must have been alerted by the tenor of comments posted on Friday, 19 February and, therefore, should have alerted staff to actively monitor the page from that time.