The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog


Cameron is right not to censor Facebook

The government is right to resist populist calls to censor the Raoul Moat tribute page.

So Downing Street didn't order Facebook to take down the Raoul Moat tribute page after all. At a lobby briefing this morning, it emerged that, despite misleading press reports, No 10 simply called the social networking site to alert it to the page's presence.

The coalition is right to resist worrying calls from Tory MPs to censor the site. For a start, no government should be in the business of censorship -- so it was a relief to hear David Cameron's official spokesman state this morning: "I don't think we're in favour of censorship."

In addition, as regular users of Facebook will know, there are equally appalling pages elsewhere on the site. Are we to censor those, too?

Finally, it's worth remembering that Facebook didn't create such views; it merely reflects them. As the social media thinker Clay Shirkey recently pointed out when asked about online comments:

[T]hose conversations were always happening. People were saying those nasty things to one another in the pub or whatever. You just couldn't hear them before. So it's a change in our awareness of truth, not a change in the truth.

A refusal to censor provides us with the opportunity to confront society as it is, not as we wish it were. Calls to censor the Raoul Moat page are a confused attempt to tackle the symptoms, rather than the causes, of this discontent.

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