No-campaign accused of over-zealous online censorship

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
The anti-independence campaign group Better Together has been accused of routinely censoring messages from its online Facebook page if they do not express pro-Union views.
 
According to a newly formed action group, whole sections of debates and discussions are being routinely removed when they contain posts which challenge the views of pro-Union activists.

The action group, calling itself ‘Silenced by Better Together’ (SbBT), has compiled a dossier it says shows the extent of the censorship which it claims has led to people being blocked for posting inoffensive, factual messages that address points raised by others.
 
The group has also compiled a similar report into the rival Yes Scotland Facebook page, which it says shows much lower levels of censorship by comparison.
 
The group compared the censorship levels for both campaigns for the month of June this year and found Better Together had removed 1648 of 5407 posts (30%) against 418 from 3731 (11%) by Yes Scotland.
 
According to SbBT, the issue arose after several of its members visited the Better Together Facebook page and found they had been blocked for no apparent reason.  The group also claims abusive and offensive comments from pro-Union contributors were allowed to remain.
 
One poster, Craig Smith said: “I was blocked by Better Together for simply reminding their followers that a Yes vote wasn’t a vote for Salmond or The SNP.  This seemed to be a revelation to some, and some questions were asked re: currency etc.  At no point was I offensive or confrontational but Better Together saw fit to remove ALL my comments from the thread and block me from commenting.”
 
Another, Stuart Macdonald said: “A few months ago there was a lot of noise being made about a currency union between an independent Scotland the rUK. Better Together posted on their facebook page about how such a thing would be ridiculous.  However, in January, Alistair Darling stated on a TV interview that a currency union would ‘be desirable’. I posted the YouTube link to the interview on Better Together’s facebook page and simply asked them to clarify their position on a currency union, and they removed the post and banned me minutes later.”
 
SbBT claims to have found evidence of similar practices being employed by Labour’s so called ‘Truth Team’ on its website and on the official Facebook page of the Scottish Conservatives.  According to the group the latter has removed over two thirds of posts from its page since the turn of the year.
 
A spokesman for the SbBT called on both the Yes and No campaign’s to provide a statement on the moderation policy for their respective Facebook pages.
 
In a statement to Newsnet Scotland, the spokesman said: “We appreciate the need for moderation and are aware of the legal obligations facing those who administer these online forums.
 
“That there are people from both sides who post offensive and inappropriate messages online is not in dispute.  However those of us who wish to engage in mature debate and discussion are being prevented from doing do for no other reason than we hold different views to that promoted by Better Together.”