Sara Bedford has tweeted today about how she has been blocked from following an MP. She hasn't said which one (although I can take a wild guess). UPDATE: Sara has done a blogpost herself about this now and it is who I thought it would be - Nadine Dorries MP.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
After that I tweeted asking if anyone else has been blocked by MPs and had a few responses both publicly and privately. Sara's case is not an isolated incident. So there are multiple examples of MPs deciding to block members of the public on Twitter from following them. Obviously I can't know all the reasons why these "blocks" might have occurred but I strongly suspect in at least some cases the MP is trying to prevent an opponent from having (easy) access to their Twitter stream.
This seems a bit odd to me. The way Twitter works is that your tweets go into the "public timeline". Anyone can see these either via direct links or just by going to your public page on Twitter. If someone follows you on Twitter, you don't have to follow them back. So to block someone is a bit of a drastic step in my view. Thus far, I have never blocked anyone from following me as I am quite happy for the world to see what I am tweeting about.
Of course people have the right to do what they want on Twitter including MPs. I am sure there are cases (e.g. where someone is being very abusive to you) where you might want to take a step like this, however in the case of Sara above I am sure that was not happening and in the other cases revealed to me I am pretty sure too.
The fact that some MPs are doing this makes me question whether they have understood the nature of the medium. It makes it look to me like they have something to hide or are afraid of allowing their opponents access to their public statements, because that's what Twitter is, a public forum.
(Incidentally it is possible to make all your tweets private but none of the MPs I am talking about here have done that to the best of my knowledge).
UPDATE1: Stu has pointed out in the comments that another result of blocking someone is that it stopping you seeing @ replies which I was not really aware of (probably because I have never blocked anyone). I can understand them not wanting to see @ replies from people being abusive but from people who just genuinely disagree and are questioning them (which I think is the case in the ones I have seen)? That's the Twitter equivalent of having someone kicked out of a public meeting because you don't like their comments or questions.
UPDATE2: Parlez_me_n_Tory on Twitter has also drawn my attention to this blogpost he wrote a couple of weeks ago on a similar theme about former Speaker contended and Labour MP Parmjit Dhanda who has blocked a constituent on Twitter.