Newsnight recently ran a story about child abuse which was later picked up by high-profile tweeters, such as Sally Bercow and George Monibot, who then inaccurately connected Lord McAlpine to the story. This has shone the spotlight onto Twitter and how its users portray the “truth". Here’s my opinion:
To call someone a paedophile is to consign him or her to just about the worst type of person imaginable so if you’re going to do it you had better have some pretty concrete facts to back up your claim. Clearly, Lord McAlpine was wronged and is seeking justice:
In Bercows case instead of being remorseful she is:
in more trouble for branding Lord McAlpine’s lawyers ‘big bullies after they threatened to sue her for tweet that falsely identified peer as paedophile.
Even though Twitter has a remarkable “self-correcting" mechanism, people need to carefully consider the implications and show some self-control before they press the “Tweet" button. This is especially important if the government goes ahead with the proposed Defamation Act where social media sites will be forced to name anonymous users or face legal action themselves:
Whilst Twitter seems to be like having a chat in fact it’s not. Abuse allegations should be reported to the police and not tweeted about.
As in the Jimmy Savile case, I think this case just distracts from the real people who deserve our pity and support; the people who were actually abused. We need to stay calm and put pressure on our politicians to offer resources to look after the most vulnerable in society and to prosecute those appalling characters who take advantage of them.