The Guardian has apologised for its behaviour over the Bluecloud affair, in which a Greenpeace activist and sometime Guardian writer named Gary Evans discussed beheading Matt Ridley.
The web and particularly the threads are a robust environment but I think we should have taken the beheading comment down as soon as it was reported, even though I agree with the moderators that it was an attempt at a joke rather than anything else. I think the “Bluecloud” comment falls squarely within rule 3 of the Community guidelines: “We understand that people often feel strongly about issues debated on the site, but we will consider removing any content that others might find extremely offensive or threatening.”
When beheadings have been such a tragic part of the news agenda for so many months the choice of a severed head as the accompanying photograph was an error. It seems unlikely to me that the offending comments would have been made had the picture not been what it was. For that reason and the length of time it took to remove the comments, I think Lord Ridley deserves an apology, which I am happy to give on behalf of the Guardian.