Censorship on What Do They Know

D Rapp made this Freedom of Information request to Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

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

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman did not have the information requested.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

I note in the report released by you here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2... at 4.2.7 you have stated that "several of our regular requesters have commented unkindly on the responses to the requests" you then report that "In response, we sought the assistance of the website's administrators highlighting the requests that appeared not to adhere to their code of conduct. Following this intervention a number of comments were deleted by the website and some information requests that disclosed personal information were subsequently restricted."

Given that this act and the reasons behind it is little more than organisational censorship, it is notable that you have only sought to intervene when the comments have been unkind. I would like to know how this censorship is regulated by yourselves.

To that end I would like to know

1) How many times you have sought to have an unkind comment deleted or a request containing personal information hidden on the what do they know website?
2) On how many of these occasions has the website agreed to censor itself by removing said unkind comment or personal information?
3) On how many occasions has the website allowed an unkind comment or personal information to remain, after your request that it be purged from public view?
4) On the occasions described in 3 above, how many times have you appealed that decision?
5) On how many occasions has your appeal been granted and the unkind statement has then been purged from public view?
6) What policy and or guidance notes govern how you approach the what do they know website? If such guidance exists please also send it.
7) Do you keep a listing of which requests and requesters have been subject to one of your information purges?
8) If such a list exists please send it.
9) How is a decision reached to purge information, is it made by an individual member of the FOI team or is a consensus sought, if a consensus is sought what is the makeup of staff involved in making the decision?

Yours faithfully,

D Rapp

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Thank you for your e-mail to the Parliamentary and Health Service
Ombudsman. This return e-mail shows that we have received your
correspondence.

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure
Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for
legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve
the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK
Government quality mark initiative for information security products and
services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

Della left an annotation ()

Is it unkind to tell a grieving parent that investigating their child's avoidable death will provide no worthwhile outcome?

C Rock left an annotation ()

I hardly dare comment on this topic. I have read the report referred-to and have grave misgivings on the direction the PHSO are going on this one. Are they listening or are they not listening?

I would suggest that the PHSO have nothing to fear from whatdotheyknow for tarnishing their image. And some of the comments here are like gold dust: ideas and 'fixes' just waiting to be implemented.

Censor that input and it's the rocky road downhill.

IMHO

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

I'd like to know exactly which requests were deleted.

And since the authors names were already in the public domain at the behest of the writers, there should be no problem about non-disclosure of names under DPA.

Brenda Prentice left an annotation ()

I have asked Alistair,'as I can't see what has been deleted' can he tell me what has, but he hasn't.

D Rapp left an annotation ()

And I doubt he will. Which means you won't know what you did wrong and are likely to make the same mistake.

I've had it myself with the moderators on this site, "We've deleted stuff" but we won't tell you what it was, when it would be helpful if they would just highlight the text before they changed it, ctrl-c, then ctrl-v it into an email. Or if What Do They Know would let you know what the report actually said.

I believe I would find myself less upset if I understood exactly what it was that I wrote and exactly why the site or a person viewing the site doesn't like it or thinks it is unkind.

Moderating a site like this is never going to be an easy task but I can't help but feel that the current system is only going to make it more onerous. If someone does something wrong, tell them very clearly what they said that was wrong and why you think it was wrong.

That and the two times they have emailed me they have called me 'Dave' which is an affectation I only allow my friends and family to use. I find it incredibly rude to be called that by a person unknown to me.

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

4 Attachments

Dear Mr Rapp

 

Your information request (FDN-196438)

 

I am writing further to your email of 10 July 2014, in which you ask a
number of questions about communication between PHSO and
Whatdotheyknow.com about inappropriate comments on the website.

 

Please find attached all the recorded information that we hold relating to
this subject.   I have removed information from these documents in line
with section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), including
parts of email addresses, telephone numbers and information relating to an
individual’s personal case (which had been posted on the website).  The
exemption at s40 FOIA allows for the protection of personal information.

 

We hold no further information which would help to answer your questions. 
In the past, we have asked for personal information to be removed,
including personal comments about members of PHSO staff.  However, many
these emails have now been deleted in line with PHSO’s retention and
disposal policy.

 

As you can see from the emails we are releasing to you, we made contact
with Whatdoknow.com not with a view to encouraging censorship, but instead
in order to alert the website administrators to potential breaches of
their own policy.  Further information about this is available on this
page of their website:
[1]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/requ...

The website is not designed to enable people to request personal
information; to promote arguments about a cause; to make statements that
could defame or insult others; or to make questions or requests for
comment rather than for specific, recorded information.

 

I hope that this information is helpful.  If, however, you are unhappy
with my handling of your information request, you can ask for a review by
writing to: complaints[2][email address]

 

If you still have concerns after that, you can ask the Information
Commissioner’s Office to look into your case.  Their contact details are
available on their website at: [3]www.ico.org.uk

 

Yours sincerely

 

Aimee Gasston

Freedom of Information / Data Protection Officer

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

W: [4]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

Please email the FOI/DP team at: [5][email address]

 

Follow us on

[6]fb  [7]twitter  [8]linkedin

 

From: D Rapp [mailto:[FOI #219750 email]]
Sent: 10 July 2014 15:37
To: foiofficer
Subject: Freedom of Information request - Censorship on What Do They Know

 

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

I note in the report released by you here:
[9]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2...
at 4.2.7 you have stated that "several of our regular requesters have
commented unkindly on the responses to the requests" you then report that
"In response, we sought the assistance of the website's administrators
highlighting the requests that appeared not to adhere to their code of
conduct. Following this intervention a number of comments were deleted by
the website and some information requests that disclosed personal
information were subsequently restricted."

Given that this act and the reasons behind it is little more than
organisational censorship, it is notable that you have only sought to
intervene when the comments have been unkind. I would like to know how
this censorship is regulated by yourselves.

To that end I would like to know

1) How many times you have sought to have an unkind comment deleted or a
request containing personal information hidden on the what do they know
website?
2) On how many of these occasions has the website agreed to censor itself
by removing said unkind comment or personal information?
3) On how many occasions has the website allowed an unkind comment or
personal information to remain, after your request that it be purged from
public view?
4) On the occasions described in 3 above, how many times have you appealed
that decision?
5) On how many occasions has your appeal been granted and the unkind
statement has then been purged from public view?
6) What policy and or guidance notes govern how you approach the what do
they know website? If such guidance exists please also send it.
7) Do you keep a listing of which requests and requesters have been
subject to one of your information purges?
8) If such a list exists please send it.
9) How is a decision reached to purge information, is it made by an
individual member of the FOI team or is a consensus sought, if a consensus
is sought what is the makeup of staff involved in making the decision?

Yours faithfully,

D Rapp

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Please use this email address for all replies to this request:
[10][FOI #219750 email]

Is [11][Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman request email] the wrong address for Freedom of
Information requests to Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman? If so,
please contact us using this form:
[12]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/change_re...

Disclaimer: This message and any reply that you make will be published on
the internet. Our privacy and copyright policies:
[13]https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/help/offi...

If you find this service useful as an FOI officer, please ask your web
manager to link to us from your organisation's FOI page.

show quoted sections

Dear foiofficer,

I am confused. Because the specific document you released here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2...

Quite clearly stated that you only sought to remove 'unkind' comments. Now it seems that you say your aim is to ensure that What Do They Know's annotation rules are followed.

Does this policy of your department searching for and reporting breaches of What Do They Know's rules apply to responses and annotations for requests made to organisations other than the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman? Or do you take no interest in those requests because they are not 'unkind' about you?

Might I ask what you would do if an annotation was posted that was in breach of What Do They Know's rules and was not unkind to the PHSO would you feel obliged to report that as well?

Might I also ask you to highlight which of the comments and annotations from the document you provided were felt to be 'unkind' to the PHSO?

I would also suggest that you didn't say to What Do They Know that you want these comments removed because they are unkind, because you knew that would make for a rather unlikely response.

My concern is that the PHSO is engaging in backseat moderation on a website to promote a better public face rather than doing the harder work of actually working well to gain the publics acclaim.

Yours sincerely,

D Rapp

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Thank you for your e-mail to the Parliamentary and Health Service
Ombudsman. This return e-mail shows that we have received your
correspondence.

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure
Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for
legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve
the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK
Government quality mark initiative for information security products and
services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Emails between the PHSO and WDTK ..

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Mr Rapp

Your information request (FDN-196438)

We hold no recorded information which would help us to answer your further questions. As you know, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 only entitles a right to an opinion where that opinion is already recorded.

Yours sincerely

Aimee Gasston
Freedom of Information / Data Protection Officer
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
W: www.ombudsman.org.uk

Please email the FOI/DP team at: [email address]

show quoted sections

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Does this policy of your department searching for and reporting
breaches of What Do They Know's rules apply to responses and
annotations for requests made to organisations other than the
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman?

This does not ask for 'an opinion'.

C Rock left an annotation ()

Perhaps I should be permitted to annotate here (as example) references to numerous communications received by me as Complainant where I suffered significant 'unkind' statements made by PHSO in dismissing my complaint whilst in full knowledge that disability and equality Acts were being broken - I now assume under PHSO discretion. Anyone who has been a victim of negligence and who has sought resolution yet has been told their claim was not worthwhile an investigation will understand ‘unkind’.

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

I cannot see that the PHSO's criticism of phsothefacts 'advertising their website' by adding links to WDTK annotations is just.

Has the WDTK website now banned campaign groups putting links to their website on topics- allied to a request - as a helpful adjoiner?

And why would the PHSO ( with its four on-call paid press officers ) feels so threatened by the public being allowed to contact a small campaign group, that it would demand the head of the FoI department write to WDTK to state that the links be removed?

If it isn't WDTK's policy WDTK's 'Alistair' should not be deleting helpful links just because the PHSO's 'Luke' merely objects to anyone reading helpful advice - without giving any sensible argument as to exactly why the links should be removed... other than the spurious one of 'advertising'.

For clarification, since it doesn't seem to be WDTK's policy to allow links, perhaps WDTK would be willing to state exactly which campaign groups links are now banned and subject to removal - and which are not.

Mr. A.Tester left an annotation ()

Dear Whatdotheyknow,

Your site is valued. My partner has already sent a personal card of thanks to your office address. Your website offers a life line to victims of NHS cover ups and continuing misfeasance in public office.

I too support J.T Oakley's enquiry made today. I too would be interested in your team's response.

There are so few options to challenge The Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman's data. Please could we ask this website NOT to remove one of the ONLY opportunities to bring their contradictions to the public arena.

A public debate must happen about this costly but seemingly ineffective public agency.

Brenda Prentice left an annotation ()

I asked through a SAR for the contacts about my WDTK annotations being removed. I asked for many other things like contacts between PHO and LGO, there is nothing!

It seems PHSO and LGO communicate by though waves! But all will be well as Steve Brown is going to review it!

I said I could write it for him....Do they really think they can get away with this sort of behaviour? Well I guess they do.

Brenda

phsothefacts Pressure Group left an annotation ()

Brenda, that made me smile. You are so right about Steve Brown who has only one template letter which says that everything was handled 'reasonably'. Well you can't expect a pig to clean out its own sty can you.

Mr. A.Tester left an annotation ()

Do you think any of the Select Committee in Westminster 10th November 2014 have or will review how Steve Brown has responded to the FOI questions made to The Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman on this website?

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player...

Well done to the PHSO Pressure Group representatives who managed to make their presence felt in The Wilson Room earlier this week.

Anyone who reads this posting MUST check out the website of this growing campaign group!

http://phsothefacts.com/join-pressure-gr...

(Fingers crossed that this post stays on this site)

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Phsothefacts:

I'd like to object to the above annotation.

...It's going too far to draw the analogy between Steve Brown and a pig.

Pigs are characterful and useful farmyard animals.

Mr Brown cannot be described as such.

Mr. A.Tester left an annotation ()

In respect of the 21% staff turnover at The Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman, the referencing of staff with animals might not be fair. The PHSO Pressure Group were using a metaphor.

What is clear here, is the amount of hurt, upset, stress felt by those members of the public who attempted to resolve their cases with the NHS and then The Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman.

One has to ask whether Parliament has been pro-active enough in monitoring an agency that was supposed to resolve problems rather than create new ones.

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

The PHSO wasn't set up to 'solve problems' .

It was set up to determine maladministration.

The biggest problem..other than the review team...seems to be that it was never given a legal definition of maladministration.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

So the PHSO interprets maladministration as being anything it wants it to be- - depending on the individual caseworker's knowledge and preference as to what it might be.