Fran Unsworth, director of news and current affairs at the BBC, told the Westminster Media Forum’s policy conference that interest groups are increasingly seeking to influence news reporting.
She highlighted a recent incident in which Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt was chased near Downing Street, and doctored images circulated online which purport to show BBC news coverage, as she outlined challenges facing journalism.
Unsworth said both Government and the press being held accountable for their work is “right and proper”.
“But that doesn’t mean our work should be drowned in vitriol,” she added.
She said the internet “is the place where radical ideas stew, where opinions and lies prove a heady mix more potent, often, than objective facts”.
“Today’s online warriors move quickly to coalesce around a position and gain access to the BBC through its complaints procedures or by email to our journalists,” she said.
She told the online conference: “In the online world, people have an absolute certainty, it seems, in their own beliefs and they want us to adopt theirs.
“As our regulator put it somewhat politely, social media has shaped increasingly passionate debate around news coverage.
“It’s certainly passionate, but it isn’t always a debate.”
She highlighted the “danger posed by the rise of interest groups that have no truck with views that don’t match their own”.
She added: “Ultimately editors edit, not interest groups, and I find they do so with integrity and honesty, as well as human fallibility.”