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Threats In A World of Twitter

Twitter threats McGill University free speech jihadThis week, the McGill Tribune reported that a student is being investigated for invoking the term "jihad" and making explicit threats of violence against fellow students on Twitter. It is reported that the student in question, in his own words, had "infiltrated a Zionist meeting", wherein he proceeded to Tweet the threatening statements in question. The meeting was in fact a screening of the film "Indoctrinate U" (which argues that American academia is largely liberal in outlook) hosted by the local Conservative Party campus club.

We should all pay attention to what's happening at McGill, and ensure that a strong message of zero tolerance is delivered when it comes to online threats. We live in a world that has changed tremendously, even since I went to university less than 10 years ago. Today, anyone - serious or not - can make the most vile and disturbing threats to their political opponents in a matter of seconds. At any time and from any place.

Campus can be a bit of a pressure cooker when it comes to political debate, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But free speech cannot be used (and abused) as a cover for intimidation and physical threats. To borrow a line from Michael Coren: this is Canada.

And in Canada, the constitution guarantees my freedom of expression and assembly (including someone's right to screen a political documentary to a group of friends). More importantly, the constitution has zero tolerance for threats against these freedoms (including physical threats against one's hypothetical film screening) - and requires the government to protect people as such.

These are the rules of the game. You are required to tolerate my opinion 100%, even if you accept zero percent of it. If you don't like the rules, well, too bad. They aren't changing.

And a closing note for skeptics. If you dismiss threats of this nature…where exactly do you draw the line?

Steve McDonald is a Communications Consultant for the Canada-Israel Committee


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