Twitter and the Nazis

Hannover Police showing confiscated Besseres Hannover flag

I love Twitter the social networking site that encourages the concise use of language and, yes, freedom of expression. For all those moaning voices that lament the modern age of the Worldwide Web, I say lets celebrate the technology that has made individual voices heard in a World that too often drowns out the little person.

I stopped to think yesterday though when I heard that Twitter had agreed to block, in Germany, the account of the German Neo-Nazi group Besseres Hannover (Better Hanover). Where Worldwide freedom of speech now I thought.  
There is justification in Twitter’s action. Besseres Hannover is banned in Germany because they break the German laws on promoting Nazi ideals. Very few people, I hope, support the hate-fueled and intolerant anti democratic views of the Neo Nazis just as very few people lament the demise of Hitler’s Third Reich. It is in all our interests to try to make sure that the Nazi values never bring misery and horror to the World again.
Germany has remained relentless in its intolerance to any attempt by the far Right to reestablish itself and we all owe them a debt of gratitude for their vigilance.

Parisians watching the german army arriving in Paris during the Second World War.
The trouble is that while we mostly agree with the values of German law, what about those law breakers in Tiananmen Square? China is decidedly unenthusiastic about Twitter and secretly pleased it didn’t exist when that brave young man stood in front of the tanks.
What about the victims of ethnic cleaning in Bosnia? The World was a long time coming to their rescue – well to the rescue of those who survived. Twitter and its like would not have been popular with the oppressors.
Would we have heard anything about Russia’s Pussy Riot? President Putin has good reason to despise Twitter.
and, without Twitter and the other social networking sites, would there have been the Arab Spring?
Twitter has not banned Besseres Hannover anywhere else in the World but it has admitted that it has acted to uphold a German law that is used to ban incitement to hatred. Open the Twitter pages to the fanatical rants of racial or religious hatred and there would soon be many more victims of ethnic and religious cleansing and there would also be much less hope for anyone fighting for freedom against autocratic governments. 
I still feel optimistic about the power of the Worldwide web. Give us all a voice and, one day, the haters, even Besseres Hannover, will all learn what it is like to be drowned by the roars of a crowd.

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