The 10 golden rules of Twitter

David Aaronovitch

No week seems to pass without some tweeter or other having their handle felt by officers of the law. So if you don’t want to be one of them but you do want to communicate in 140 characters, here are my 10 Golden Rules:

  1. Twitter IS publishing. Putting it out there for others to read is publishing. So don’t tweet anything you wouldn’t be happy to see on the newsagent’s shelf with a picture of you above it.
  2. You think you know the law of libel. You don’t. Nor do any of your friends. I have had grown men telling me on Twitter this week that repeating a libel is not itself libel (it is) or that if you don’t directly say X is a rampant Y, but just hint at it then it doesn’t count (it does).
  3. If you’re an obscure nobody who no one follows, but who wants to say something rude sort-of privately, don’t do it under a trending hashtag. You will bring the wrath of thousands of strangers down on your hapless head.
  4. Some people LIKE the wrath of strangers. They’re called trolls. If you feel yourself bridling at repeated rude comments aimed at you and your cherished views then just BLOCK the offender. They disappear as if by magic.
  5. You are hurt. Wounded. Someone has questioned your talent or integrity. You wish to howl with online pain. Don’t. Those who enjoy your discomfiture will gather like crows around a carcase. Laugh. Put up a smiley.
  6. That brilliant retort you have composed, replete with pungent sexual or violent imagery, which will utterly destroy the Twitter foe who has, despite my advice, so annoyed you? Cherish it. Roll its 140 characters on your tongue. And then, for God’s sake, DELETE IT.
  7. Don’t tweet while drunk. You think it’s clever, and funny, you giggle and dribble at your own brilliant verbiage. But you are opening wide the gates of Hell. Morning will come, cold and clear.
  8. Don’t EVER meet a jolly Twitter companion, even one you’ve been ff’ing (suggesting people follow you every Friday) for months. Not without a police report. I learnt the hard way.
  9. Get yourself a decent avatar (picture) on Twitter. Not that default egg or the eye slicing scene from Un Chien Andalou. For everyone else’s sake.
  10. Lastly, the golden rule, the rule of rules. Never, ever tweet anything about anybody that you wouldn’t say to their face. There’s a REASON why you wouldn’t say it to their face. They might hit you, or sue you. So why would you want to tweet it?

@DAaronovitch

Read more: “The unhealthiest falsehood spread on social networks is that users are living lives of constant glamour and hilarity,” says Libby Purves

Read The Times’s award-winning columns…for free!

To celebrate The Times’s haul of seven gongs in yesterday’s Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards, we’re giving one and all the chance to read the best from our winning columnists. But hurry, the doors are only open until 3pm on Friday, October 19…

David Aaronovitch wonCommentariat of the Year, the most highly-regarded award for a columnist:

Read his piece about Liam Stacey, the student who was given 56 days in prison for posting an offensive tweet about Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton footballer who collapsed on the pitch during an FA Cup match earlier this year.

Hugo Rifkind picked up Media Commentator of the Year:

Read his piece on Facebook and whether our desire to share everything with everyone might one day fade.

Tim Montgomerie was Political Commentator of the Year:

Read his column on how political competence trumps political celebrity.

Ann Treneman was Sketch Writer of the Year:

Read her lyrical piece on “a mud-slinging, cage-boxing scream-fest” between Ed Balls and George Osborne.

The monstering of John Major | David Aaronovitch

I got a tweet this morning from, as far as I can tell, a youngish man who seemed axeless to me. He had been watching Sir John Major at the Leveson Inquiry and had a question that perhaps a greybeard like me might be able to answer. “Finding Sir John v impressive and sincere,” he wrote, “Why has the press for years told me he was useless & incompetent?”

Well, precisely. It’s hard to know when the business of “monstering” (as opposed to criticising) public figures began. Major was not an idiot, everything he did was not useless, indeed his most substantial crime was probably to win an election that most people thought that he and his party really should lose.

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