Adrian Short

Samaritans Radar: an open letter to Nick Pickles at Twitter

To Nick Pickles (@nickpickles), Twitter UK’s head of policy Hi Nick, When I first heard about Samaritans Radar it sounded like an interesting idea. Then I thought about how it might be used to hurt vulnerable people as well as to help them. But what really changed my mind about it was reading the #SamaritansRadar hashtag. There was a buzz about the app but not a good one. Almost everyone there was saying that they were worried about it.

Samaritans Radar must close

Update, 2 Nov 2014: We’re asking Twitter to shut down Samaritans Radar because the Samaritans aren’t listening. I’ll cut to the chase. The Samaritans Radar app has been a disaster for everyone concerned and it must close. Right now. Today. There’s no way forward for it. Just shut the damned thing down and chalk it up as an experiment that failed. Learn the lessons. Yes, the Samaritans tried to do something to help people in distress.

Unethical uses for public Twitter data

The outcry about Samaritans Radar has highlighted a common, false and extremely dangerous argument: Your tweets (or other social media posts) are public and so you’ve only got yourself to blame if someone uses them in ways you don’t like. Consequently, if you don’t want to suffer harm you should watch what you say. This is essentially victim blaming and a call for self-censorship. It’s disturbing that the Samaritans themselves use this argument in their supposed defence rather than taking a more critical view of their own responsibility to act ethically.

Samaritans Radar: paved with good intentions

Samaritans Radar is a Twitter app bursting with good intentions. Unfortunately it has potential to cause great harm. Let’s take the happy case, because Samaritans Radar is built for a perfect world in which only happy cases exist. You sign up for the Twitter app and it promises to send you email alerts whenever someone you follow on Twitter – your friends – looks like they’re miserable and in need of some support.