There was one from my old friend Hoz Shafiei, a man I will add who keeps encouraging me to get
into trouble .
He asked why my Twitter account was private. News to me. On checking I found a page of details
which boiled down to this:
Your account (@jfwking) is currently suspended. For more information, please visit Suspended Accounts.
Following is a way to receive information in your timeline, from a person, company, or organization.
However, a disproportionately large number of the users you followed have blocked your account or
reported your account as spam. For more information about following best practices, please review
the Following limits and best practices.
This left me puzzled, had I posted something that had been found so offensive that a large number of
people had blocked me or reported me. While I may be blunt and the truth or my opinions may be
unwelcome to some I am seldom rude nor do I post obscenities.
So what was going on?
In order to get my twitter account back I had to tick various boxes to say that I would abide by the
Twitter rules and codes of conduct and not do it again. Though at this stage I had no idea what it was
I had done and still don't.
Boxes ticked, hoops jumped through and account back. With no followers or followings.
This was before I had even finished my first mug of coffee so I really didn’t need this in the morning. By
the way how did humanity function before coffee?
After much checking and poking around I found that I still had followers and followings, I had lost two
followings in total. Yesterday I was following 377 people, this morning it was 375, so a grand total of two
people had stopped me from following them. Though while going through the backlog of tweets I added
several more followings. I cannot see who these two were or why they blocked me from following them.
In terms of people following me I had lost one. Rachel Reeves MP was following me yesterday and was not
No idea why she followed and then unfollowed, perhaps she took the time to read my blog and didn’t like
my view on things.
Again there was no mention of why she was gone.
But as far as I can see a grand total of two people blocked from following them me out of well over three
hundred. Does that constitute a “disproportionately large number of the users you followed”?
How do just two people get my twitter account shut down?
Aside from the annoyance this raises in my mind a rather important point about just how un-free the
freedom of speech is on social media.
I have avoided Twitter, I find the limit of such small posts annoying, I like to say something not be forced to
crush my words together to fit a tiny character limit. You cannot have a meaningful exchange of ideas on
Still I have been persuaded to be more active there. One day when they come for me with a lynch mob there
will be a second spot on the platform for Hoz who keeps persuading me to do these things.
Now in the last few days I have been posting about the situation in the Ukraine and the limp and toothless
response from the western world to events there. I have also commented on the growth of food bank use
and the fact that the government has stopped releasing statistics.
Nothing here that I have not said in my blog posts and yet Twitter shuts me down.
Twitter is called a social media. A digital method of interaction where people can communicate without
regard to boundaries or borders. Where people can exchange views and opinions around the world.
It along with others such as facebook, forums, chat groups etc have become the information age way
that people communicate, it has replaced phone calls, letters or painting on the walls of caves.
It is seen as a part of life, something that is routine, something always available.
Yet as the result of something I had no control over, something a handful of others seem to have objected
to, I found myself shut out. Not only could I not see what others were saying but they could not see what I
A single click, a single digital tick in a digital box and I was no longer part of the crowd of people talking to
Just like that and my voice is silenced.
If you think about it Social Media in all of its many forms is not free speech, it is tolerated speech. We are
allowed to talk to each other across a digital medium, our speech is permitted by those who control the
medium by which we speak.
One transgression, one mistake, annoy the wrong person and you are silenced as effectively as any secret
police in the most repressive tyrannies can manage.
People liken Social Media to the world standing together in a great open area and being able to talk. It is
nothing like this. Instead it is people in little boxes who are allowed to talk to people in other little boxes.
If something goes wrong or if you are shut down then you can talk to those people who are close by or those
you know on another network but the world no longer hears you.
Twitter, Facebook and others like them have a huge impact on people’s lives online. They are the way by which
millions of people have a voice in the world. Often these are people who would otherwise not be heard.
Those living in repressive countries or under regimes that do not tolerate free speech for example.
People who wish to be heard but who have no off line way of doing so.
The internet gives them a voice. It allows them to speak to others, to tell the truth, to report on what is
happening in places where our media do not go.
In this way the silent may speak. But in this way those who speak may also be silenced.
Shutting me down is a very minor thing, but if it is so easy to do to me what hope do those people have who
are resisting genuine tyranny and evil. If peoples online voices are really so easy to stop what hope is there
of free speech in the digital world?
Twitter has a responsibility to block illegal speech, thousands will shout and complain about twitter posts that
cross the line of legal or socially acceptable content. But at the same time Twitter is the place where so many
can meet in safety and talk in freedom.
The powers behind Twitter have created a modern digital city, filled with talking people. They have a
responsibility to protect those people from harmful posts.
But do they not also have a responsibility to protect the freedom of those people to speak?
I am back on Twitter, but how many others are still silent because someone, somewhere did not like what
they had to say?