Thursday, August 27, 2015

BBC issues half-hearted apology to Grant Shapps over wikipedia allegations

During the General Election campaign the Guardian alleged that the then Chairman of the Conservative party, Grant Shapps, had been anonymously editing his own Wikipedia entry to make it more sympathetic to him and that the account he had used to do this had been suspended.

This allegation turned out to come from a Lib/Dem activist, Richard Symons.

Shapps responded that he had openly corrected his entry under his own name in the past to remove false information such as the suggestion that he was a Jehovah's Witness - which is entirely permissible under Wikipedia rules - but strongly denied the Guardian story.

The BBC made much of the allegations, repeating them forty-two times in a 24 hour period.

Wikipedia duly investigated Symonds allegations. The investigating panel found "no evidence" that Grant Shapps had acted in the way alleged by Symonds, and censured Symonds,  whom it said had given the appearance that Wikipedia's monitoring tools were being used to "exert political or social control".

The Wikipedia panel also found that Symonds had been "unable to provide sufficient justification" for his actions, and "did not take adequate steps" before making the information public to make sure that the release of the information was "seen as neutral and unbiased".

The BBC did report this new development - see their website here - but did not give the story that Shapps had effectively been cleared anything like the prominence they had given the original story.

Grant Shapps complained about this, and the BBC issued a very half-hearted apology.

We covered it, but apologised for not doing as much on it as he, or we, would have liked,”

said a BBC spokesman,

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