Today’s #TwitterSilence – are you in or out?

by Stephen Tall on August 4, 2013

For those of you who don’t inhabit the Twittersphere, many people today are taking part in a #TwitterSilence (that’s its hashtag).

It was the idea of Times columnist Caitlin Moran as “a symbolic act of solidarity” intended to shame Twitter into taking more seriously the rape/bomb threats and other abuse being targeted against women. You can read her blog about it here.

I’m not taking part. I summarised my reasons here:

My Co-Editor Caron Lindsay wrote an excellent piece on the topic here last week. And Index on Censorship’s Padraig Reidy has written an excellent response to Caitlin Moran, highlighting how the well-intentioned desire to limit the free speech of people who abuse it can have damaging consequences:

A lot of time spent defending free speech is not actually about defending what people say, but defending the space in which they can say it (I’ll refrain from misquoting Voltaire here). It may be idealistic, but we genuinely believe that given the space and the opportunity to discuss ideas openly, without fear of retribution, we’ll figure out how to do things better. Censorship holds society back. In fact, it’s the litmus test of a society being held back.

When the cry goes up that “something must be done”, it’s normally exactly the right time to put the brakes on and think very hard about what we actually want to happen. The web is wonderful, and possibly the greatest manifestation of the free speech space we’ve ever had, but it’s also susceptible to control. Governments such as those in China and Iran spend massive resources on controlling the web, and do quite a good job of it. Other states simply slow the connection, making the web a frustrating rather than liberating experience. Some governments simply pull the plug. The whole of YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan for almost a year now, because something had to be done about blasphemous videos. Last month David Cameron announced his plans to take all the bad things away, after the Daily Mail ran a classic something-must-be-done campaign against online porn.

On the basis of my Twitter timeline, most (though not all) liberals/Lib Dems seems to be agin #TwitterSilence. Here’s a few that I found via LiberalTweets:

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.