UK’s government-funded news media giant BBC is considering measures to discourage its “top correspondents” from biased tweeting.
The actions follow election criticism from both left and right.
The Guardian reported that the BBC might rethink letting its journalists use Twitter following “criticism of online comments made by [BBC] staff during the election campaign.” BBC director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth has considered methods to “persuade journalists to end the practice of frequently posting on politics and current affairs.”
Though several “close to Unsworth” clarified that her efforts to ban journos’ Twitter usage were a “joke,” the BBC department head said that she’s looking into “at least applying the BBC’s social media guidance more stringently.” Unsworth admitted the changes “would meet some resistance” and expressed her desire to start a “debate.” She has also been “contemplating asking correspondents to come off Twitter.”
The Guardian characterized Unsowrth’s controversial ideas as a response to combating BBC journo’s supposed bias online. This included BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg getting into a spat with “Jerremy Corbyn supporters for repeating, along with other pundits, a false allegation that a Tory minister’s aide had been punched by a Labour activist.”
Unsworth’s pending decision will also look into criticism generated over BBC North America editor Jon Sopel and his anti-Trump tweets. Sopel has been an avid tweeter in addition to his recent coverage of President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
Sopel criticized the White House’s “Read the Transcript!” defense on Trump’s call with Ukraine President Zelensky. Sopel cited CBS correspondent Major Garret’s reporting and tweeted, “Only conclusion is that either contemporaneous read out of call given by @WhiteHouse is inaccurate. Or transcript released today is inaccurate. Quite an important point #ImpeachingHearings.”
Sopel also criticized the U.S. president for “attacks” on Democrat impeachment witness and former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, has blasted Trump’s spelling mistakes, and joked on Twitter that Trump is inspired by and emulates Vladimir Putin.
It’s biased posts like these that have encouraged BBC’s potential social media readjustment. Unsworth did clarify that it’s a tough decision for her to restrict BBC writers on the platform, which provides a certain “journalistic effectiveness.” If anything, she told The Guardian, “We just need to reinforce our social media rules.”