Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

MPs on Twitter blocking followers

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.


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.

8 comments:

Stu said...

I don't think blocking does what you think it does. It doesn't prevent others from seeing your tweets, it prevents you from seeing @-replies from people you've blocked.

So if an MP decides to block somebody, it's not to stop that person seeing the MPs public statements, it's to prevent the MP from seeing comments from that person. It's probably because they found them irksome, and don't want to hear what they have to say any more. Considering the way some people pester MPs quite persistently, I can sympathise.

Mark Reckons said...

You're right about it stopping you seeing @ replies which I was not really aware of (probably because I have never blocked anyone). However it does also stop people from following them.

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 equivalent of having someone kicked out of a public meeting because you don't like their comments or questions.

Dippyness. said...

The point of Twitter is to allow an open forum.
If you can't stand the heat, do a runner.
The only people I block are spammers. If people don't like what I say..TOUGH!

Dingdongalistic said...

Given that I value the freedom to only associate with people I know on fb, I'm a bit cautious of being critical of people who view twitter in a similar way, even if most people see it differently to them.

ian said...

One thing I think has not been mentioned here is that you can subscribe to a Twitter users updates without even registering on Twitter. You just need to subscribe to the RSS feed.

blindcyclistsunion said...

I've only just realised it since you mentioned it, but I am blocked by Two MPs (at least) Kerry McCarthy and Tom Harris.

TH didn't like me calling Blair a Liar and a War Criminal in a place where he couldn't delete it (twitter) rather than on his blog. I probably also made a sweary at him.

KerryMP blocked me after she made some bitchy comment about Nadine Dorries MP, to which, being heartily sick of her bitching I replied "OMFG! YOU ARE SO FUCKING FUNNY"

So another sweary there. Fair play to em, but if you can't take the heat, etc...

Anyhoo, if anyone has been blocked and still wants to see what they're tweeting, go to tweetminster and either use their on line tools or download their app, which is pretty snazzy.

blindcyclistsunion said...

Oh, and if you use the "Tweetminster wire" app, you can read and reply to them. You can't escape my scorn so easily KerryMP. BWAHAHAHAHHAHAH!

Richard Gadsden said...

I block spammers on Twitter. I don't block anyone else, though I might end up blocking Chris Paul because he's just such a £$%^&*