We’ve recently been documenting the No campaign’s increasingly-panicked attempts to avoid, or entirely shut down, the Scottish independence debate by various means.
We were on the sharp end of it again last night, as the usual small group of frothing extremist BritNats and psychopathic stalkers (accompanied this time by a tiny handful of “useful idiots” from the SNP’s youth wing) tried to smear and discredit this site by crudely misrepresenting things I’ve said in a personal capacity over a number of years.
But it’s not just us the anti-independence camp is trying to muzzle.
The data represented in the graphs on this page was compiled thanks to painstaking work by the staff of the “Silenced By Better Together” Facebook page. Set up a few weeks ago to chronicle in measurable terms the enormous amount of censorship that takes place on the official No site, it has since recorded literally thousands of instances of “Better Together” deleting and banning comments from users seeking to conduct entirely civil and factual debate.
The site’s proprietor, John Smith, had this to say of its findings:
“What is immediately clear from the results is that the Better Together online campaign has significantly higher rates of censorship compared to Yes Scotland. This result is reflected in a large amount complaints being made against Better Together for stifling the debate.
We have identified a number of methods being used by Better Together in order to censor comments. One method is to “Hide” comments made by individuals. This means that to the general public these comments are not visible, but remain visible to the original creator. Another more abrupt method is to simply delete comments so that nobody is able to read them. This is typically followed up with banning the person who has posted the comments.
The effects of banning a member of the public are a complete removal of their ability to respond to further debates or challenge any ruling made by the page administrators.
In order to fully understand why Better Together has adopted a high censorship policy we would need to hear directly from their online campaign team. However, the circumstantial evidence would point to an unwillingness to offer a fair and open debate on their page. Far too often it can be evidenced that Better Together are censoring comments without just cause.”
A recent change in the way Facebook displays comments has meant that SBBT’s methodology no longer works, and June 2013 (above) is the most recent month for which figures are available. But that single month showed a staggering 1,648 comments – a whopping 30% of the total – deemed “unacceptable” on the “Better Together” Facebook page, many of them demonstrably not objectionable in any way, except in that they embarrassed the No campaign or disproved its claims.
Offensive comments are a problem for any website open to the public. But their extent is often greatly exaggerated, particularly by traditional media. Wings Over Scotland has censored fewer than 0.03% of the 80,000+ comments posted here since the site launched at the end of 2011, publishing the other 99.97% unmoderated.
Despite the No side claiming the referendum is already won, “Better Together” has deployed every possible means at its disposal to shut down Yes campaigners, including bullying, legal threats, physical intimidation, smearing, petty complaints to local authorities and spurious, time-wasting calls dragging the police out pointlessly to perfectly legal street leafleting. It regularly declines invitations to debates, and indeed now even hides the locations of its “public meetings” from the public.
But the voice of the Scottish people, suppressed on the subject of the Union for 300 years and finally set free by the SNP’s landslide victory in 2011, will not be silenced. This site, certainly, will not cower in the face of intimidation and defamation. The likes of “Silenced By Better Together” will also continue to record the No camp’s cowardly censorship of dissent and civil discussion. We and others will continue to challenge the lies and distortion of the media, all the way to 18 September 2014.
The attacks and manufactured outrages will only get nastier during that time. There will be more dirty tricks. There will be more smears. There will be more lies. We’re ready.