Amid ongoing debate around divisive speech, and what should and should not be allowed on social networks, BBC Sport in the UK has taken matters into its own hands with a new approach to trolls and hateful remarks on its social media posts.
✍ A message to all of our followers… pic.twitter.com/2EzB04k4Nn— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 10, 2020
As you can see in this tweet, pinned on the various BBC Sport profiles, BBC explains that it will:
- Block people bringing hate to our comments sections
- Report the most serious cases to the relevant authorities
- Work to make our accounts kind and respectful places
- Keep growing our coverage of women’s sports, and keep covering issues and discussions around equality in sport
Of course, that approach is not anything revolutionary, various businesses would have similar approaches to the same. But the fact that BBC Sport is openly sharing this, and advising its followers that it will take action against such, is a significant step, and underlines the fact that anyone can indeed decide to take their own action on such, and block, hide or remove comments (where possible) that don't align with their approach.
BBC has taken the measures after it conducted a survey which showed that nearly a third of elite female athletes have been subjected to abuse on social media.
At @bbcsport, we felt we couldn’t report on this statistic and not take action ourselves.— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) August 10, 2020
So we have strengthened our stance on tackling hate speech in our social media comments. pic.twitter.com/w11UiQStfg
And in addition to taking its own action, BBC Sport has also called on its fans and supporters to also take action against abusive comments.
"If you see a reply to BBC Sport posts with an expression of hate on the basis of race, color, gender, nationality, ethnicity, disability, religion, sexuality, sex, age or class please flag the URL to the post in question by emailing us."
Really, such action should go without saying, but most users will not take that extra step of reporting such, they'll just ignore it and move on. That's why BBC's action to explicitly call for direct response is significant - and again, it underlines that brands and individuals can take their own measures to address such comments, within the limitations of each platform, in order to push for more action on each instance.
That could be worth considering for your own brand accounts. General complaints and criticisms are fair, and should be addressed as a matter of course, but you can also set ground rules as to what's acceptable, and police your comments in line with such. Maybe you'd prefer people not to engage in political commentary on your page, not to post their own links, maybe you want to set boundaries on acceptable language and comments.
You can choose the parameters which suit your business ethos, and you can, indeed, enforce that with the various tools on hand.
As such, you'd don't need to wait for the platforms themselves to tackle these issues. Yes, there are trade-offs in terms of engagement, and you can't remove, say, reply tweets outright. But you can use Twitter's new reply limits to restrict such, and you can report, hide, and call on your community to do the same, in order to take action.
The key element here, which BBC Sport is showing, is transparency. By outlining what's acceptable, and what's not, you can then set clear parameters for related discussion, and tackle the key issues direct.
As such, it's an interesting step for BBC Sport to take, and should be considered by all businesses.