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BT silences customers over Phorm

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BT has banned all future discussion of Phorm and its "WebWise" targeted advertising product on its customer forums, and deleted all past threads about the controversy dating back to February.

Subscribers to BT's broadband packages had used the BT Beta forums to criticise its relationship with Phorm and raise concerns about the technical implications of ISPs wiretapping their customers. On Tuesday however, BT decided it had had enough and posted this statement:

Our broadband support forums are designed to be a place where customers can discuss technical support issues and offer solutions. To ensure that the forums remain constructive we're tightening up our moderation policies and will be deleting threads that don't provide constructive support. For example, we have removed a number of forum discussions about BT Webwise.

If you do want to find out more about BT Webwise, we provide lots of information and the facility to contact us at www.bt.com/webwise. We hope you'll continue to enjoy being part of the support community.

A first thread on WebWise extended to almost 200 pages, before being closed in late September when BT's third trial of the system began. It was still available to read however and a new thread was started by BT Beta moderators, which continued until yesterday. All record of either has now been removed.

Adam Liversage, BT's chief press officer, told The Register: "The reason why we've done this is that the point of the forums is technical support and the WebWise threads weren't appropriate."

He said the fact that BT had chosen not only to close the threads but delete them entirely was insignificant. "It doesn't matter either way because the people who are following this will have the threads backed up in multiple copies," he said.

Asked whether forum users can expect more threads that BT considers inappropriate to be deleted, Liversage said: "I think they can, yeah."

It's not the first time the companies at the centre of the row have tried to censor their critics. In April Phorm said an attempt to remove some uncomfortable facts from its Wikipedia entry was the work of its own public relations people. ®

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