Sunday 25 October 2009

Jan Moir and the 'typhoon of tweets'

Peter Preston in the Observer today looks at the furore over Jan Moir's article on Stephen Gately and is troubled by the way the Mail had to remove ads surrounding the piece when it appeared online.
He remembers how the Guardian was once threatened that it would lose advertising after running an award-winning investigation into the low wages for black workers employed by British firms in South Africa.
Preston writes: "Twenty-two thousand complaints – an all-time, knee-trembling record – to the Press Complaints Commission. A torrent of tweeting, blogging, battering ire poured over the Mail. A tidal wave of vituperation engulfed Moir. But what's this? Her home address out there in cyberspace? And her Mail website page cleared of ads as anger and protest swills in every direction?
"We're used – this month at least – to hailing the magic of Twitter. See what it did to Carter-Ruck! But how do we feel about such digiforce when it drives advertisers off site? It's easy for liberal goodies to slap their sides, deeming that Fox and the Mail bad guys had it coming. But there is a principle here that applies to whoever stands in the firing line, and a commercial precedent that should set us quaking.
"The internet makes seemingly massive protests easy, typhoons of tweets on demand. Opinion can be gathered online far faster than is possible on the streets. Companies with stocks to sell can be swamped or frozen in a trice.
"Do we say, then, that all's fair in a comment war, that free speech – however much we may dislike a particular viewpoint – is fair game for blogging attack? That the instant voice of the many can silence the few – and frighten the living daylights out of those who want to make a living selling stuff to them?"

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