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Blocking someone on twitter is NOT free speech denial

Tom Winnifrith
Monday 16 February 2015

Anyone can set up a twitter account in minutes. And once on twitter you can shout out to the world what you want. Of course if you call a Police Horse gay, tweet a burning poppy or insult David Cameron the Old Bill might feel your collar if you happen to live in Airstrip One. But if your sole purpose is to insult non-celebs (i.e. Tom Winnifrith, rather than Tom Daley) you can tweet pretty much what you please.

And so it should be. I support free speech to the hilt. Some of the interventions by the Old Bill are disgraceful, a matter I have highlighted here before.

But free speech does not mean that I have to read what folks tweet. For instance I have a standard policy that if someone tweets out something that could be described as Jew hating or supportive of gay bashing I will not follow them They can rant on as much as they want about the wicked Jews being responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attacks or about how they want to string the poofters up from cranes. But I am just not interested in their views. And whilst I celebrate the odd mad lefty (Peter Tatchell, Brokerman Dan, my wife and my father) because they are interesting mad lefties and on certain matters are total heroes, folks who just rant day in day out about the evils of capitalism are of no interest.  So I would not follow them.

But part of twitter is that you have the ability to force me to read your inane views by simply starting a tweet @tomwinnifrith.  Freedom of speech means not only the ability to say what you want but also to choose what you listen to. And so if some loon starts tweeting his Jew hating, gay bashing or capitalist loathing views to me I have every right to block him.

Of course certain of my “admirers” in the Bulletin Board Moron community have also taken to twitter. And so daily I find a new account with zero followers tweeting @tomwinnifrith some sort of insult. Yesterday’s classic was “how dare you attack Quindell. How is the legal claim on the £100,000 you stole going? Hypocrite.”

Right: Four or five years ago I managed a fund which invested £100,000 in a company that turned out to be a fraud. At my insistence, all investors were fully compensated. The Regulator saw all documents and cleared me. I gained not a penny. Investors lost not a penny. So there is no law suit against me. That is al in the public domain yet the Morons insist otherwise. Why on earth would I not block such a moron? Or indeed wags who start their tweets @tomwinnifrith – why should I listen to a failed pizza delivery boy?  

Why indeed? You are not obliged to follow me and I am never going to tweet to you and you do not have to read what I write. Feel free to ignore me as the ability to do so is part of the beauty of free speech. Equally you won’t mind terribly if I block you as you are a factually inaccurate bore, will you? Tweet your piffle to all of your zero followers but you have no right to make me read it.


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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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