SAGA has closed the social networking website it set up as a rival to Facebook for the over fifties because of what it said were “racist, homophobic and anti-semitic comments”.
Paul Green, a spokesman for the company, explained: “There were some particularly vicious exchanges recently about the Middle East and some people were banned after accusations of making anti-semitic or anti-arab comments.
“The majority are a good group of people but a minority caused concern with offensive and potentially illegal racist or homophobic comments. We even discovered what I believe are called trolls with multiple online personalities, because messages were coming from the same computer – sometimes with names from both sexes.
“An online free-for-all might be alright for other social networks such as Twitter but expectations are different when there is the Saga logo in the top right-hand corner.”
Saga Zone, as the online forum was known, had “many thousands” of registered viewers but only “low hundreds” of regular contributors. The company, set up in Folkestone in 1951, is now 80pc owned by private equity investors and 20pc owned by staff.
Saga offers a wide range of insurance and legal services, as well as the holidays that made it a household name. Mr Green said: “Nobody was suspended for criticising Saga services. That had no bearing whatsoever on the closure of that part of the website.
“We have a had problems with offensive messages posted on the Saga Zone and issues with the timely moderation of the site and so today we decided to shut the site.
“This means that from today the forums are now ‘read only’ so you can no longer post comments. However, you can still access your account to retrieve your content. The site will be switched off from February 26, 2013.”