Did the BBC pull, then re-instate, a poll about holocaust denial?
The GIYUS pro-Israel 'troll-supporting political malware' was back in the news this month, and blogged about this week by athenaeum. They were quoting an article from The Register earlier in the month claiming that BBC Magazines had withdrawn a BBC History Magazine online vote about legislation on holocaust denial because it was being manipulated.
Athenaeum also cited my own take on the GIYUS software in their post, pointing out the editorial guidelines I noted, which prevent online votes on BBC websites being quoted as authoratitive in BBC programmes.
We can report any summary of online voting on the radio or television programme associated with the website, but we should not normally report it elsewhere in news, or on other radio or TV programmes, or on other online services.
However the guidelines don't talk about reproducing an online poll in a publication, nor using the results to drive the editorial content of a magazine. It is a fine line, and I think the BBC would have had a long thought about the vote if it knew it was being lobbied in this way. The magazine's question stated:
Do you think holocaust denial should be made illegal in Britain?
We want your views. From the January issue of BBC History Magazine, we'll be introducing a new section where we gauge your opinion on the key historical story of the month.
The Register article reported that:
Soon after it was targeted by Megaphone, the poll was pulled. The magazine declined to speak to The Register about the episode.
Prior to contacting The Register, our source corresponded with the magazine. Staff writer Robert Attar wrote at the end of August: "I am aware about this situation. I had a look at their site and all they have done is encouraged their members to vote on the polls which seems legitimate to me. It would also be extremely difficult to prevent groups of people voting in this way. As our polls are not used for any scientific or academic purpose I don't see the problem."
In my previous post on the topic I pretty much agreed with Robert Attar - lobbying an online vote isn't the same as cheating.
So the thing that I don't get about this whole story is that today from Austria, where holocaust denial is a criminal offence, I quite happily voted on the BBC History site on the issue. So did they pull it like The Register claimed, then later re-instate it?