IPSO Blog: User generated content

Head of Complaints Lauren Sloan on how IPSO regulates user generated content.

Facilitating reader comments and other user generated content is one of the ways that newspapers and magazines are increasingly trying to connect with their readerships. Online and social media means audiences are able to interact in real time with a publication’s content, and with each other. 

This engagement can often be positive, linking together like-minded individuals and communities, encouraging debate and allowing a publication to get real-time feedback on its material. 

However, it can occasionally be problematic, as the recent White Paper on online harms attempted to demonstrate when it set out concerns about some of the potentially harmful effects of some user-generated content. 

While IPSO does not regulate members of the public and cannot take complaints about the behaviour of individuals, we can and do handle complaints about reader comments or user generated content which have appeared in our regulated publications in specific circumstances. 

For IPSO to be able to consider a complaint about an online comment it needs to appear on an electronic service operated by one of IPSO’s member publications – this could be a website, apps or social media account. 

Any material must also be “editorial content”. This simply means that a publication must have control over the material e.g. the ability to remove or edit the content. Some publications pre-moderate any reader comments and this would be considered automatically as editorial content. Where comments are not pre-moderated, they fall into our remit when a publication has had the opportunity to review any specific comments under complaint, and following this review, they remain online. 

All complaints about user generated content or reader comments, like any complaint to IPSO, must be framed under the Editors’ Code – the set of standards we regulate which includes things like accuracy, privacy and harassment. A complainant must explain to us which clause(s) of this Code they think have been breached by the user generated content, and why. 

If you’re interested in how IPSO deals with user generated content, you can read our response to the online harms consultation here or get in touch via inquiries@ipso.co.uk  

These IPSO rulings which deal with reader comments may also be of interest: 

A woman vs Press Gazette
Evans v The Argus (Brighton)
Miller v Mail Online Daily Express The Sun 


Originally published 16 August 2019.