Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Rutland councillor convicted over Facebook posts will lose his seat

Remember Richard Alderman, the Rutland councillor convicted over his Facebook posts?

In October I wrote:
Richard Alderman, the 'Democracy Rutland' councillor, today received a six-month community order for his posts on Facebook. 
He will have to wear an electronic ankle tag to monitor a 7pm to 7am curfew. 
As the Leicester Mercury has said he intends to carry on as a councillor, he had better hope there are no evening meetings.
But there are evening meetings. The council's meetings all start at 7pm.

And today BBC News reported that Rutland County Council had decided not to grant him dispensation to miss meetings.

Which means - unless there is a stray afternoon subcommittee or working party meeting he can attend - he faces disqualification for not attending a meeting for six months.

Reader's voice: Shouldn't a liberal be shocked that a councillor faces the loss of his seat for stating his opinion?

Liberal England replies: More and more, I view free speech, not as an individual right, but as a social good. My favourite liberal philosophers - Mill and Popper - treat it in that way. They emphasise the role of free discussion in revealing error and allowing progress.

So the question becomes how we foster institutions that allow and promote free speech.

Online forums have the potential to do this. But, as we have all learnt, they are often poisonous places dealing in abuse and driving people away rather than arenas for reasoned debate.

So someone who behaves as Alderman did is not promoting free speech but curbing it.

1 comment:

Phil Beesley said...

If we go back to July 17 2018 when Liberal England commented about Richard Alderman: "He has been reported to the police and Rutland County Council's monitoring officer over his Facebook posts." Then he was arrested. Two months later he was charged for using a communications network to send offensive or menacing messages, and was found guilty in a Magistrates Court.

Richard Alderman posted comments which I find offensive on his Facebook Timeline. I've never been a Facebook user but I understand that Timeline is computer composed from comments made on a Facebook user's Wall and Profile. Alderman's Timeline, Wall and Profile were intended for friends to read. They were not hidden and I have not seen anything about them being promoted.

A Twitter message can be a broadcast, read by nobody or by thousands. A Tweet can also be directed. Richard Alderman did not broadcast or target his thoughts. He wrote offensive words -- rants -- which were read by almost nobody.

So far, nobody has reported an offensive Richard Alderman comment on a big forum -- MumsNet, Labour List, Conservative Home etc.

Richard Alderman's words poisoned Richard Alderman's reputation. He didn't debate in public and so cannot be accused of poisoning public debate.