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

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 was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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9 Comments

  • I don’t use Twitter but I’m worried about how the campaign is being organised as by talking about solidarity it would almost make you a scab to break it. You don’t need to go silent online to be against threats to women.

  • Andy Boddington 4th Aug '13 - 12:44pm

    Its slightly ironic that #twittersilence is trending as that’s hardly silent. But coming up second at the moment is #inspiringwomen, which is shouting loudly for women.

  • Tony Greaves 4th Aug '13 - 2:27pm

    I am happy to boycott Twitter for the next 6 months. (Or for the rest of my life if that helps).

    Tony Greaves

  • I’m out, but it annoys me that twitter abuse is being portrayed as exclusively about men targetting women, to the point of newspapers publishing pop psychology suggesting why men do this.

    Three weeks ago, a dentist named Delilah tweeted to an American TV show that a woman it had just interviewed needed to get raped and murdered. She has since protected her tweets but you can read it and more at http://twitchy.com/2013/07/16/hope-this-juror-btch-gets-raped-justice-for-trayvon-mob-hopes-juror-b37-suffers-rape-and-death/ as well as equal amounts of vitriol directed at the (then) recently deceased Christopher Hitchens at http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/25-dumbest-reactions-to-godisnotgreat

    It is all quite disturbing and reminds us of the need for active moderation (something Twitter seems to lack while sites dedicated to comics about dinosaurs have had for more than a decade) but misogyny is demonstrably only a small part of the real problem, which is that humanity is doomed.

  • #inspiringwomen is the WI slogan!

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