Lonely Planet and its BBC masters have said the recent suspension of the Thorn Tree forum was carried out in the interests of the community, rather than due to a specific threat of exposure.
The hugely popular forum was closed in mid-December last year after the BBC claimed a "small number of discussions" were found to be inappropriate and breached the service's editorial guidelines.
Parts of the forum were put back online around two weeks later.
It later emerged that the trigger for the suspension came after a forum user contacted the acting director-general of the BBC, Tim Davie, with concerns about Thorn Tree after researching an article about online travel communities for the New York Times.
The BBC now says the closure of the forum was "one done in the interests of our community" rather than the prospect of an article in the NYT.
Some might be forgiven for wondering if the suspension of the forum was an over-reaction by the BBC given that only a "small number of discussions" were poisoning the well which at the time was regularly attracting around 100,000 new posts a month.
This suggestion not outside the realms of probability given the corporation was reeling from the negative publicity around its wider editorial guidelines in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal in the autumn of 2012.
However, it turns out that no article was ever commissioned by the for New York Times. The NYT also says it has no knowledge of any discussions about research into travel communities taking place between it and any contributor.
Tnooz has now seen the email between the forum user and the BBC, although the complainant's name is redacted. This correspondence perhaps sheds some light on why the BBC took such swift action, despite the NYT angle possibly not existing at all.
The contents of the email chime awkwardly against the so-called "small number of discussions" containing inappropriate content which triggered the suspension, with the user claiming over 22,000 results on Thorn Tree containing a word not normally associated with the high values of the BBC ("fu*k").
Many more incidences are listed.
Work is still under way to restore some of the forum branches and complete the integration of new filtering software to capture any problems with content in the future.
A BBC Worldwide official says:
"Making significant changes to how a long-standing forum works is never easy, and we’ve not finished the job yet. There’s no doubt that this was disruptive to our travellers, so it was never a decision taken lightly.
"However, we’re happy that the changes we've made have resulted in a better place for travellers to share information and advice."
The corporation says there has been no commercial impact as a result of the suspension of the forum, although it concedes there was "bound to be a commercial risk in closing it down" but this was a secondary consideration to "doing the right thing for our community".
The return of the Thorn Tree has inevitably triggered much discussion amongst its members, with the "Welcome Back" thread from Lonely Planet staff reaching an eye-watering 78 pages, much of which is not exactly positive in its content.
The official says:
"It’s understandable and inevitable that there are vocal members of the community who do not agree with the changes we’ve made.
"However, there are also plenty of positive comments on that thread, and other messages that our community team have received. We’ve actively used that feedback to influence the prioritisation of functionality and content to bring back."
So, in short: BBC officials closed the platform on the basis of an email from someone claiming to be writing for the NYT (a proclamation which turned out to be false), but then did so armed with the knowledge that large swathes of the forum were carrying content way beyond chatting about, for example, the best places to visit in Indonesia.
Whether the Thorn Tree will ever return to its former glory remains to be seen, but the circumstances which led to its suspension, including the importance of monitoring travel forum content, will no doubt be a case study in years to come.