Lonely Planet travel forum closes

BBC shuts down Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree travel forum

The commercial arm of the BBC has shut down its hugely popular forum for backpackers and travellers because "uncomfortable themes" were being discussed.

BBC Worldwide spokesman Philip Fleming told the Daily Mail "offensive swear words" and "bad language" had been detected, forcing them to "reassess" how they carried out the moderation of their user comments.

On 26th December, Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree travel forum released the following statement: "We're sorry but the Thorn Tree forum is temporarily closed as we've discovered instances of inappropriate language and themes. Until we're confident all rogue posts have been identified and appropriate action taken we feel we have no option but to temporarily close the forum as a precautionary measure.

"We're actively working on this throughout the holiday period - please bear with us.

According to newspapers in Australia an unnamed source from the Lonely Planet site said the decision to shut the forum was "all about Jimmy Savile".

"They discovered that if you looked for terms like 'paedophile' or 'child prostitution', you got Thorn Tree hits," the source told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"The hits are mostly discussions of current events or pointless stuff that would have been moderated, like 'Barney the dinosaur is a big purple paedophile'. However, someone found a thread about 'what's the age of consent in Mexico?' That really set them off.

"They went into full, freak-out, panic attack mode."

Lonely Planet closes Thorn Tree travel forum

A number of users who use the Thorn Tree forum went online to express their anger at its sudden closure.

One traveller, Dustin Dolatowski, tweeted: "You couldn't have picked a worse time for closing the Thorn Tree forum."

Another, Bruce Taylor, wrote: "The state of Lonely Planet is depressing. Shutting Thorn Tree is the latest eg of BBC clearly not understanding what they bought."

Cormac Scanlan, chief operating officer at gapyear.com, said: "Messageboard forums have been the most popular place for internet users to meet online to discuss the topics they are passionate about since the late 90s, and travel has been one of the most popular. Like Lonely Planet, for over a decade we've facilitated the realtime interactions of so many inspiring travellers on the gapyear.com messageboards, watched their excitement as they plan their trips and enabled them to help each other through trials and tribulations. 

"Members of online travel communities may move on as sites shut down or interests change, but the sum total of their past interactions make for a massive, impartial and invaluable resource to travellers. The loss of any part of this large online travel community is felt greatly."

Do you think the BBC is overreacting or do you think there should be stricter guidelines to travel forums? Drop a comment below.

Also, let us know what you think by coming over to our travel forum and get talking to your fellow travellers on the message boards.