As anyone who has scanned the Lonely Planet ‘Thorn Tree’ forums knows, it’s mainly a mecca for backpackers. Backpackers who travel from country to country and want quick answers to questions about hotels, restaurants, buses, boats, airfares and more. So, when the BBC who owns Lonely Planet, shut down the Lonely Planet ‘Thorn Tree’ forums yesterday, you can imagine how many angry backpackers in Thailand that created. Backpackers who wanted answers to their questions about Thailand while on the road and who suddenly found themselves shut out.
According to the notice Lonely Planet (aka the BBC) put up, the website has found “inappropriate language and themes” among the forums’ millions of posts. So, it’s shut the forums down to deal with them. As dealing with them seems to mean wading through the millions of posts on the forum to find and delete the offending ones, yes, Lonely Planet forums could be shut for a while.
Of course, in typical BBC fashion they didn’t bother explaining what these so-called “inappropriate themes or language” were but there’s speculation it may have to do with posts asking about “the age of consent” in certain countries and, of course, the BBC living as it does in the dark ages, that set off its alarm bells on ‘pedophiles’.
Plus, with all the hysteria in the UK about Jimmy Saville recently, the BBC is more than a little paranoid.
Personally, I’ve never understood why anyone, backpacker or otherwise, would go to the Lonely Planet forums for information about Thailand or any other country they’re planning on traveling to. When I’m looked at some of the topics talked about on Thailand, not only is a a huge percentage of the information completely incorrect, in some cases it’s downright defamatory or dangerous.
Most backpackers in Thailand would do better coming to websites like this one or other sites run by people who actually live in Thailand, and not Lonely Planet’s forums where most of the people answering the questions asked are lucky if they have spent more than a week in the country and often don’t know the correct answer.
That Lonely Planet’s forums need moderating more closely, however, has been an issue for years as it’s been jammed with trolls for eons. That it’s taken the BBC this long to figure it out and then to go to the ridiculous extreme of shutting down the forums in response – nope, no surprise there unfortunately.
Meanwhile, backpackers to Thailand will just have to find their information elsewhere. Here is a good start!