The Age online says sorry online

June 2, 2010 by J-Wire Staff
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Following the recent forged Australian passports affair which resulted in the expulsion from Australia  of an Israeli diplomat, a member of the Canberra community complained to ACMA [the Australian  Communications and Media Authority] about hateful and anti-Semtic comments posted on The Age’s web site.

Manny Waks

J-Wire alerted The Age to the content after learning that Canberra identity Manny Waks, Vice-President of the A.C.T. Jewish community, had reported the content to ACMA.

Darren Goodsir, editor of the National Times, Fairfax’s online news service, has told J-Wire: “The National Times takes seriously its responsibility to moderate all comments contributed to the site, prior to publishing, in keeping with the overall tone of the site and its goal to be a place for full and frank, robust commentary.

However, from time to time, comments are published that we later feel should not have been published.

Sometimes, we retract these published comments ourselves after having another view about the nature of the post or the discussion.

At other times, we retract comments in response to reader reaction that we feel makes valid points.

In this case, errors of judgment were clearly made.

The offensive comments were subsequently edited to ensure the offensive portion of the post was deleted. A number of similar comments were also withdrawn from the site.

The National Times apologises for these errors, but trust our readers and your readers understand that they were not done in a malicious way. Rather, they occurred under the pressure of workload. Once they were recognised, we took every effort to withdraw those offensive comments in as speedy a way as we could.”

Waks has followed up with ACMA and told J-Wire:

“1. ACMA mainly deals with radio and television, less with websites.

2. Different rules apply to forums because it is difficult to identify those who breach the rules.

3. It is upto the website administrators themselves to deal with these types of issues on their websites.

” The website administrator should be held accountable. While The Age took appropriate action once it was notified – it acknowledged the oversight, apologised for it and removed it – consideration by website administrators should be given to check material before it is posted on their websites. Naturally this would slow the process of the forum discussions, but it would prevent the promotion of racism and vilification.”

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