BBC Staff Twitter Accounts

Peter Martin made this Freedom of Information request to British Broadcasting Corporation

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by British Broadcasting Corporation.

Dear British Broadcasting Corporation,

I am interested in BBC corporate, programme and individual staff twitter accounts.

How these are defined is not altogether clear to me, but the first two should be unambiguous.

For the latter I presume prominent use of BBC title and programme relationship in header word or image branding, and consequent BBC topic dissemination, calls for BBC-relevant material as posts, or RT'ing as a claimed member of BBC staff, would qualify.

1) How many of these 'official' twitter pages are there?

2) How many are corporate and how many relate to an individual?

3) Of the latter, how many carry some form of disclaimer, usually approximating to 'views are my own'?

4) How many do not? What is the reason for inclusion or not?

5) For either how many have had posts withdrawn through controversy by the staff member? Have there been multiples by some staff? Please quantify.

6) How many have had entire profiles closed by the staff member? Have there been multiples by some staff? Please quantify.

7) How many have seen senior management require the staff member to withdraw posts? Have there been multiples by some staff? Please quantify.

8) How many have seen senior management require the staff member to close twitter accounts? Have there been multiples by some staff? Please quantify.

9) In the case of 7) and 8), what were the reasons?

10) In the case of 7) or 8), how many have been reporters, talent or senior staff, such as editors, producers. Or top-tier management?

11) How many of those used by reporters, talent or senior staff, such as editors, producers, or top-tier management, have blocked members of the public for reasons other than personal abuse?

12) For 11) What are the % blocking rates for these?

13) For 11), what were the reasons?

14) Are there BBC Guidelines in place to assist with assessing and logging these reasons for blocking? One presumes so, as BBC staff creating highly selective follower bases for any non-legitimate reason could be seen as unwarranted censorship and exclusion. What are these guidelines?

15) In case there is no information available, or it is deemed excluded, please ensure the explanation for the BBC operating an unaccountable information broadcast arm via poorly defined and/or overseen staff personal accounts does not invoke the 'purposes of journalism' exclusion, as that would be trying to have a cake and eat it.

These are either personal or corporate. They cannot be BBC-branded and be the former.

If corporate, 'views my own' cannot apply, or refusals to be held to account, as there appears to be no avenue for even BBC internal accountability to be invoked by the public in case of abuses of accuracy, professional conduct or impartiality. As twitter is a major platform in the BBC broadcast armoury, this would be an unfortunate loophole to see persist.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Martin

A Willmore left an annotation ()

A lot of your questions also apply to the BBC's use of Facebook.
Here's my unsuccessful attempt from a couple of years ago...

FOI Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

Dear Peter

Thank you for your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, as detailed in your email below. Your request was received on 25th March 2015. We will deal with your request as promptly as possible, and at the latest within 20 working days. If you have any queries about your request, please contact us at the address below.

The reference number for your request is RFI20150481

Kind regards

The Information Policy & Compliance Team

BBC Freedom of Information
BC2 B6, Broadcast Centre
201 Wood Lane
London W12 7TP
Email: [BBC request email]

Tel: 020 8008 2882

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Peter Martin left an annotation ()

To: A Willmore

Tx for your annotation; hope this is the correct way to reply to it as the 'reply' option goes to BBC FOI.

Your 5/3/13 submission does share much in my line of questioning, inspired by 'recent events' across the board.

I note it was refused point blank, which considering what you were asking and I am, is a real concern. What was the outcome of the ICO appeal? Not, I trust, ongoing after all this time?

You are quite correct about FaceBook, another BBC-branded platform owned and operated by overseas corporate bodies with different and/or vague value sets shared with the UK national BBC. There are of course differences with twitter as, best I am aware, BBC FaceBook pages are corporate BBC entity-branded, whilst twitter has some of these, but of course many of the individual/personal branded variety too.This goes to responsibility and accountability.

The BBC Facebook pages are clearly overseen to an extent by some of vetting and authority, as evidenced by frequent modding interventions, not least to plea for better behaviour from posters under what is a BBC banner. They are often tardy, or ineffective or not acted upon, as some pretty nasty stuff goes up and stays up. The BBC therefore stands exposed to legitimate accusations of hosting hate sites as others have been (ironically by the BBC and/or its staff), and banning and sanctions as a consequence.

My focus here however is twitter, and BBC control, or lack of, over staff acting in its name. Inspired by clear breaches of guidelines ('doing something stupid' to quote a famous BBC management email) that have, on occasion, been acted upon. More often not.

The BBC needs to confront this. Social media is not some privateer media platform the nation's state media can play with on a 'sort of official, sort of not' basis. It's binary. In. Out. On. Off.

I am sure they are aware of this, and seek the data they must have accrued to come to a policy that actually adds up to more than an Elizabethian droite du seigneur that can apply when it suits and get waved away if things backfire. To repeat, this is the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation. There is a Charter. There are Guidelines; reams of them, if often honoured more in the breaking, and then arbitrated upon by secret internal systems answerable to no one but those who don't appear to feel even Parliamentary inquiry calls by elected representatives apply to them.

Their response will be interesting in more ways than one.

"The "journalism, art or literature" excuse, that they trot out half of the time, is an absolute cop out. "

Of course it is. And so overused even the BBC must be getting embarrassed by how often they are reduced to hiding behind it. People, often in positions of authority now, are starting to notice.

The BBC cannot keep hiding behind a mysteriously unique immunity from answering questions, and if FaceBook and twitter are being used to engage in practices they cannot conduct via the 'official' BBC screens and pages on or offline, they need to address why and correct them. Hence my attempt to get them to ponder this, and if not moved to respond sensibly, share more widely to encourage them to reconsider.

Denial is not an option. At least, for long.

A Willmore left an annotation ()

I did appeal to the ICO and they sided with the BBC and told me... "... the Commissioner considered that there is a clear link between the BBC's creative output and any marketing activity which seeks to promote that output. Hence, using Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to support and promote broadcast output for journalistic purposes falls under the derogation.". So, no help at all then.
One change I have noticed since then is that some presenters now say "you can find me on Twitter" instead of "you can contact the show via Twitter", or similar.
It seems that I am not the only one to have gone in to battle with the BBC over this. I used to read this blog every day and the writer also tried to pick apart the BBC's use of Twitter. The following might be of interest to you:

Peter Martin left an annotation ()

To: A Willmore

Tx for this. No real surprise, but still disappointing.

Very much 'Beware of the Leopard' logic from the ICO in support of the BBC, as any fans of Hitchhikers Guide will appreciate, if ruefully.

However, the BBC creating areas outside some rules but protected by others seems yet more doubling of standards an abusive situation already creaking with uniques will struggle to constrain much longer.

Especially as these refusals may well prevent disclosure of the detail, but thanks to this fine site, public profile and onward promotion in the mass media domain, even the wagon-circling (especially based on such excuses) tells a sorry story.

Equally the shenanigans of the BBC Complaints system, and there are plans afoot to let this heretofore shadowy aspect of BBC internal, in secret semantic covering-up get to enjoy a taste of sunlight too.

I was/am aware of LTL and their travails. Precisely the kind of factual sharing that the BBC does not like as it goes further and further beyond their control to suppress or manage.

Thank you for the reminder.

FOI Enquiries, British Broadcasting Corporation

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Martin,


Please find attached the response to your request for information,
reference RFI20150481.



Yours sincerely


BBC Information Policy and Compliance

Room BC2 A4

Broadcast Centre

White City


W12 7TS



Website: [1]

Email: [2]mailto:[BBC request email]


[3]Description: Description: \\BBCFS2025\UserData$\myrien01\Documents\My



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Visible links
1. file:///tmp/
2. mailto:[BBC request email]

Dear FOI Enquiries,

I have written to the ICO following refusal of this request.

I write because I would appear to have no other option, given this key paragraph:
Appeal Rights
"The BBC does not offer an internal review when the information requested is not covered by the
Act. If you disagree with our decision you can appeal to the Information Commissioner."
Given what has been advised here:
"the information you have requested about BBC corporate, programme and individual staff Twitter accounts is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’ The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you and wil not be doing so on this occasion."
What I am trying to discover is self-explanatory from the questions.

I dispute this information is in any way covered by the attempted exclusions.

I have serious concerns what is done in the name of the BBC, on BBC-branded twitter accounts, by BBC staff, and what oversight systems and sanctions exist.

There is clearly a problem of epic historical and ongoing nature, that the BBC clearly cannot and will not face up to.

2011 -

2014 -

Just recently -

Faith in the BBC's ability to address such things eroded by the 4 year time span above and, from the latter:

"The BBC appeared to get into a tangle as it contradicted her explanations and strongly denied that any tweets had been sent saying the Queen had died.
In a statement a spokesperson said: “During a technical rehearsal for an obituary, tweets were mistakenly sent from the account of a BBC journalist saying that a member of the royal family had been taken ill. “The tweets were swiftly deleted and we apologise for any offence.” A spokeswoman insisted there was no evidence that a tweet had been sent which said the Queen had died. “I do not think any tweet was sent from this account that said the Queen had died,” she said.However, a screen grab appearing to show the tweet was published by the NBC News website. The corporation refused to give any details of how the error happened or whether Ms Khawaja was in the same building as the dress rehearsal."

The 'spokespeople' were from the BBC Press Office, originators of a tweet that inspired this story:

"The corporation's press office retweeted - and then quickly deleted - a message slamming Mr Whittingdale's voting record on gay rights, the hunting ban and a host of other unrelated issues to his new brief as Culture Secretary.

A BBC spokesman yesterday morning insisted the corporation was 'looking forward to working with the new Secretary of State'.
He also insisted that the re-tweet of the critical message had been a mistake which did not reflect the BBC's view.
The spokesman said: 'The tweet referred to was tweeted at the BBC and not produced by us but it was inadvertently retweeted – that was never the intention and it was immediately deleted.' "

Please therefore forgive me if I consider BBC internal oversight in such matters to be in any way reliable.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Martin

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