Thursday, 2 August 2012

Twitter suspends and unsuspends Independent journalist Guy Adams. Denver gunman "fans" (Holmies) are allowed to run amok on Social Media. Censorship dawns?

The decision by Twitter to suspend and then "unsuspend" journalist Guy Adams account, may have far reaching consequences.

Adams, who works with The London Independent (an excellent quality title) had tweeted his disgust over NBC's well publicised delayed Olympic coverage. I mention that here

In tweeting however, he suggested that other Twitterers, would email a NBC executive whose email he disclosed. Twitter stopped the account and then after deliberation, re-instated it on the basis that they had wrongly thought that the disclosure of an email address was a violation. 

However, two problems. One, is that it has been suggested as a consequence of doing this, that Twitter might pro-actively censor comments they just don't like. Perhaps comments about their advertisers? The Government? Mitt Romney? Who knows.

The second is that in fact NBC and Twitter had already agreed a business partnership to provide Olympic games coverage - so, the argument goes, the critic Guy Adams, was deleted for business reasons. There's some truth in that and it makes Twitter look real bad. Imagine a call from NBC to their man in their "partners", Twitter, saying, "we don't like this guy, take him down" and they do....Wow.

So the interest of a business partner may have taken precedence over Twitter trust. Dangerous stuff and Twitter is getting the backlash, rightly so.

However, on the other hand, censorship or control of Social Media is becoming a major issue. Most of us believe it's not controlled but......on the other hand...

The shooting in Colorado during The Dark Knight, seemingly by James Holmes, has led to the opposite - calls that favourable pro-Holmes comments should be taken down. "Supporters" (I kid you not) of James Holmes, calling themselves 'Holmies' started a Facebook page and quickly got 800 likes. It was taken down although Facebook say they're not sure "by whom" (because if it was Facebook, they'd hate to admit it since they'd be seen to do what Twitter did).

Holmies have taken over Tumblr instead. Users such as "freeholmes" and "jamesholmeslovr" are active. They encourage writing to Holmes, dye their hair the same red as he did and produce fan-zines.

YouTube now feature a video clip of The Holmies Anthem.

Outraged? Now there's the issue. 

We all consider that to be a horrific use of Social Media and just bewildering. There's a lot of strange people out there determined to cause upset on a grand scale though. You only have to look at standard YouTube comments which are mostly pretty horrible anyway.

So do you allow Guy Adams to Tweet and consequently have to leave The Holmies alone? Or what?

And if you're a publisher or broadcaster or brand online, do you leave comments unmoderated exposing yourself to defamation or criticism (remember the McDonalds disaster) or censor them causing upset?

The Web has been a free, unregulated space that allows people express themselves in whatever way they wish, within the law. And if you want a view... so it should remain.

And yes, that does mean leaving The Holmies alone to do what they want but the overiding benefit of freedom, will mean, hard as it is to accept, it will be worth it for all.

What we don't need is Twitter censoring journalists anymore.
They're going to be sorry they ever did.