Editorial: Freedom of tweets
Controversial Twitter account should not be censored
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
It is truly a sign of the times when a newspaper editorial board is giving its opinion on a controversial Twitter account. But that is where we stand now, as the account, @unh_d, is under investigation by the University of New Hampshire police for posting potentially harmful tweets.
The account was deactivated on Thursday, Sept. 6, but it has since reappeared with a different handle (@UNHDICK). It has kept the name “UNH_D” and currently has over 1,000 followers.
As reported in the Tuesday, Sept. 11 issue of The New Hampshire, detractors of the account were concerned that @unh_d was advocating rape and creating an unsafe environment for women on campus.
Before it was originally deactivated, @unh_d’s tweets mostly described situations in which a woman would want to engage in sexual activity with a man. One tweet, for example, read, “If anything she’s wearing involves glitter, she wants the D.”
There is no doubt that the account’s tweets were and are juvenile, lewd and, in some cases, moronic. But that does not exclude it from being protected under the First Amendment.
Freedom of speech is one of our most basic and inalienable rights. We live in a country that allows anyone, no matter his or her social status, to speak out about anything. It allows us to criticize government, religion and other institutions without fear of being arrested.
It also allows for humor that is both controversial and offensive.
But the other side of this story is that those criticizing the account are exercising their first amendment rights as well. There is nothing wrong with denouncing @unh-d and calling for a boycott of the account. If they feel that the account is promoting something that is potentially dangerous, they have every right to express that as well. It is all a part of the public forum.
What is not acceptable, however, is taking legal action against someone who has not broken any law. The creator of the @unh_d account did not personally or directly attack any individual or any group. Everything else is up to interpretation.
As Dean of Students Anne Lawing said in Tuesday’s front page story, “there was nothing on [@unh_d’s] page that violated the boundary of protected speech.”
It is dangerous to draw a line in the sand when it comes to free speech. Either everything is protected or nothing is safe from censorship. Even a Twitter account that makes crude jokes should be protected by the First Amendment.