Social media is an important tool in our day-to-day lives, allowing us to share everything from milestones to the mundane with our family and friends.
Twitter has become a paramount tool in the political world, allowing many politicians in Canada and around the world to share their work. Twitter acts as an accessible platform with constant and essential information and allows a direct line of communication between politicians and their constituents.
U.S. President Donald Trump has become famous for his tweets, in which he announces controversial policy changes, often before speaking with members of his team. He regularly proves the importance and potential danger of Twitter.
With Twitter being such an influential platform in the political sphere, it should be a significant concern that politicians are blocking individuals from accessing their social media accounts.
Blocking a user prevents them from being able to follow you from their account. A blocked user who tries to see your tweets will not be able to, and Twitter will display a message informing the user they have been blocked.
While being blocked on Twitter by a politician is not a new concept, recently, several Alberta United Conservative MLAs have reportedly been blocking opposition members on Twitter.
Several politicians from across the province have tweeted, claiming to have been blocked by various members of the UCP caucus. Some were reportedly blocked by Premier Jason Kenney as well.
MLAs are responsible for their social media accounts; however, most politicians have staff who contribute or monitor their Twitter use. Regardless of who is responsible for the blocking, it is a very blatant disregard of democracy.
Politicians have a responsibility to leave all mediums of communication available to their constituents and their fellow politicians. Some may argue that politicians have formal channels to air their grievances; however, Twitter has become an essential part of political dialogue, and politicians should leave themselves open to all criticisms. Blocking affords politicians the power to pick and choose who can participate politically.
Politicians, particularly women, people of colour and LGBTQ+ folks, are often the target of horrible harassment. This harassment is only elevated on platforms like Twitter.
That being said, blocking does nothing to rid social media of trolls. Instead, it prevents access to public information – information that helps the public make informed decisions. Twitter has even added features to stop harassment while leaving communication open. "Mute" is a feature that allows you to remove an account’s tweets from your timeline without unfollowing or blocking that account. In short, if you block someone, they cannot see your tweets, but if you mute a user, they can still see your tweets.
With the option to mute those who are misbehaving, politicians should not block anyone on Twitter or any other platform – even their fellow politicians. To block anyone who doesn’t agree with you is petulant and childish, and ultimately prevents certain individuals from fully participating in our democracy.
Jennifer Hamilton is a local student and writer.