Freedom for Facebook?
Padraig Reidy:David Cameron's condemnation of pro-Raoul Moat sentiment online doesn't sit easily with the coalition's freedom agenda
15 Jul 10

David Cameron has been using valuable parliamentary time to express his shock and/or horror at a Facebook page dedicated to Northumbrian gunman Raoul Moat.

The group, R.I.P. Raoul Moat you legend! <3, currently has over 35,000 members. Despite what Cameron and Conservative backbencher Chris Heaton-Harris — who raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions — imply, it seems at least half the people commenting on the page actually disapprove of Moat having any kind of “legend” status conferred on him.

But details rarely matter when politicians swing into somethingmustbedonery. In a surely pointless move, Cameron has contacted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg and demand, er, something. What, exactly, we don’t know. A no 10 spokesman has said that the government is “not in favour of censorship”,

Facebook has already clarified its position on the page, saying it’s a forum for debate and does not breach the site’s rules. It seems unlikely that Zuckerburg will budge on this point, and he’d be correct not to.

So the new-ish prime minister will be snubbed. What then? Well, as one caller to Radio Five Live put it last night, if they can block Facebook pages in China, why can’t they do it here? Cameron’s not going to follow China’s Internet policy (as No 10 has made clear), so one wonders what the point of Cameron’s semi-patrician, semi-populist stance is?  And where this condemnation of free expression of opinion sits in the coalition’s freedom agenda?

UPDATE: the page’s creator has taken it down, but has said, rather confusingly: “A few of us came to a decision [to take the page down] but it’s going to be up again running.”

Of course, there are still several other similar Roaul Moat groups and pages active on Facebook

By Padraig Reidy

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms and a columnist for Index on Censorship. He has also written for The Observer, The Guardian, and The Irish Times.