Tory MP Karl McCartney has compared the University of Lincoln Students’ Union’s supposed censoring of a Conservative Society Twitter account to “something out of the Soviet Union or North Korea.”
The Lincoln Conservative Society was forced to hand over control of its Twitter account, allegedly because two tweets were critical of the SU.
One of them shared a report which said the University of Lincoln had a bad record for freedom of speech.
A closed-doors disciplinary hearing over the tweets is said to have been held on Monday, March 6, and the SU found that the Conservative Society may have breached their code of conduct.
Due to SU orders this Twitter account will no longer be active. We hope to return on 1st May. Sorry for any inconvenience.
— Conservative Society (@LincConSoc) March 6, 2017
Karl McCartney, the MP for Lincoln, said: “This intolerant, illiberal and totalitarian response is akin to something out of the Soviet Union or North Korea rather than a place for learning and debate.
“The loony-left has certainly taken over it seems at the University of Lincoln Students’ Union and this is another chapter in their knee-jerk desire to stifle debate.”
He also commented on the irony that Lincoln is the home of the Magna Carta, one of the first documents to guarantee free speech.
McCartney added: “I am raising my concerns about this decision not because it is the Conservative Society. As a firm believer in freedom of speech I would do the same for any student society in my constituency who were in this position.”
The report which the Conservative Society shared was compiled by the online magazine Spiked. It gave the University of Lincoln’s SU a ‘red’ ranking for free speech, claiming it has “banned and actively censored ideas on campus”.
Over 70 universities had been given a ‘red’ status for free speech.
In particular, the report criticised the SU’s policies on handling external speakers, initiation ceremonies and banning discriminatory speakers.
The Conservative Society was also reportedly disciplined for criticising a questionnaire which had to be filled in to vote in the SU elections.
They claim their Twitter account will be suspended until May 1. It has not been revealed who made the anonymous complaint about it.
A spokesman for the society said: “We feel the decision that was made is misguided and disproportionate, as the society was simply trying to raise the important issues of free speech and democracy, and the tweets in question have been taken out of context.”
The SU said in a statement: “Freedom of speech is a fundamental value of the Students’ Union. The SU is built on a foundation where students can express opinions and ideas freely within the law.
“For obvious reasons, we cannot comment on live disciplinary matters concerning members of one of our clubs and societies however; we can confirm that due to a suspected breach of the code of conduct a request has been made that the Conservative Society temporarily suspend their social media account.
“Though we are aware of some areas of concern regarding Freedom of Speech, we would like to reassure you that Lincoln SU shares the same values as the University of Lincoln in this respect.”