The folks over at Twitter have taken action by suspending the account of Britain First, a far-right neo-nazi group. While many are praising Twitter for taking steps to block this sort of trash, others are questioning the mega-site’s role in freedom of expression.
I have to admit that no matter how egregious I find this vile group – and unfortunately many more like it – and their message of intolerance and violence, I cannot help but wonder if it is the place of Twitter to suspend the accounts. (Twitter has been clear that the account is “suspended” not deleted or permanently removed.)
The presentation of heinous racist tracts is not limited to Twitter, nor for that matter to the Internet. On far too many occasions groups like Britain First have protested in public; often inciting violence. These gatherings usually include people waving racist slogans and comments on placards. Should the vendors of the poster board, nails, glue and stick be held responsible for what the purchaser writes on it?
By providing the medium, does that make one responsible for the content presented thereon? Are obscene phone calls the telephone company’s fault? I have difficulty relating the two parts of the equation. Newspapers have long been able to provide a forum for diverging points of view in the form of op-eds. The opinions expressed there are often clearly not those of the editorial board of the paper. Twitter to me is a forum. Had the atrocious Tweets originated from @twitter then I would be the first to jump on them, but they come from a third party.
No doubt some will point out that Twitter makes a whole lot of money from these accounts through advertising revenues. I would suggest it is incumbent upon the advertisers to pull their sponsorship; and on us, the Twitter users and casual readers, to ignore these sites.