For and against the evils of Twitter
Michael Portillo was mostly interested in “internet filth” in the discussion about Twitter on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze last night. (He was in black tie, presumably for dinner afterwards rather than as a statement about BBC standards.)
He did not believe my claim that Twitter is a medium through which untrue stories are rebutted more quickly than ever, and that the problem of the naming of the mis-identified Conservative peer arose not because of Twitter but because it originated from a credible mainstream media source, the BBC’s Newsnight. (My bit starts at about 10′40″ in.)
I pointed out that credibility and reputation are just as important on Twitter as anywhere else, even if it might take people and legal systems a while to adjust. For example, the hoax stories about the deaths of famous people that have sometimes been retweeted in haste are easily checkable. If they originate from an account that has only four followers, we can assume that they are probably untrue.
Portillo assumed that I was making a simple “democratic truth” argument, that the more followers someone has on Twitter, the more credible they are.
Fortunately, David Allen Green was on after me, and had the best line, which was that the arguments against Twitter, and the internet generally, made by Portillo and Giles Fraser, who was also on the panel, were familiar. “You have got to be able to trust people with this new right to be able to communicate with the world, just as, 100 years ago, you had to trust them to be able to vote or before that to be able to read Scripture.”
Fraser was worried about “the crowding, the bullying” of Twitter, “the way in which it can amplify some of the best things as well as some of the worst things about who we are”.
Green responded: “That was the same with giving people the vote.”
Update: I also wrote about this for The Independent on Sunday.Tagged in: twitter
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