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Artillery Row

Twitter suspends Tory MP

The social media giant did not give a reason

The view of Sir Bill’s Twitter account yesterday morning

Twitter suspended, around three weeks ago, the account of prominent backbench Tory MP, Sir Bill Cash, suggesting he had violated Twitter’s rules. This was despite Sir Bill’s account not having tweeted anything since January, and no complaint about it being known or disclosed.

Although his office asked why the account had been banned, Twitter did nothing and could or would not explain why they had taken this step.

Sir Bill, who chairs the European Scrutiny Committee, has been waiting for a reply for weeks but within hours of us contacting Twitter’s press office the account was miraculously reinstated. Sources inside the monolith suggested “systems” had “accidentally” made an “error”, again.

Sir Bill told The Critic:

“I am extremely glad that Twitter have now reinstated me. There was no legitimate reason for suspending my account and they have acknowledged this.”

When we interviewed John Whittingdale the day before he was made a Junior Minister in the Department for Culture Media and Sport, he raised the alarm about the level of control Facebook has over the news and acknowledged that: “Facebook have … power and are pretty unaccountable”.

When an MP can be banned from Twitter for weeks with no right of appeal, isn’t it time for Whittingdale and his boss Oliver Dowden to review all social media companies and how they approach free speech?

The current plans for social media regulation to be overseen by OfCom seem to be focussed on implementing a “duty of care” on the internet giants rather than compelling them to uphold free expression.

If the Tories don’t act while they have a huge majority, the first social media laws may well end up being written by a Labour government which might have a less inclusive view of who is allowed into the public square, and who’s allowed to police it. No one should have any optimism on the basis of past history that they’ll know what social media “crimes” have been committed.

None of this matters if you think social media is of no account. If, conversely, you think it has considerable influence on politics, politicians should be willing to influence these companies.

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