Richard Dawkins Addresses BlockBot: Says It’s Not Censorship, Block Away, But Stop With The Libel

Sunday morning, evolutionary biologist and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins learned he’d earned a new position — on BlockBot’s list. BlockBot, a program designed to block and hide people on Twitter who may be offensive or who may engage in abusive, harassing, or stalking behaviors, and many are calling the list defamatory and libelous. Dawkins says he welcomes people to block him — but not to lie about him.

According to Breitbart, Richard Dawkins was on BlockBot’s list for numerous listed crimes:

…’racist’, ‘gross’, ‘rapeapologist’, ‘childabuseapologism’, ‘transphobia’, ‘yourad**k’ [sic]…

Discussion on BlockBot’s site reveals that Dawkins is only one of many who feel they’ve been inappropriately labeled. One commenter says he made the list for asking why a circulating video was deemed sexist.

BlockBot responds mockingly to many of these comments, and dismisses claims lightly, saying that the discussed lawsuit doesn’t exist, and wouldn’t stand up if it did — and that anyone who disputes their position on the list can message the person who added them — assuming, of course, that they aren’t blocked — to request removal.

Dawkins addressed the controversy and labeling on Sunday, speaking out simultaneously in defense of BlockBot’s lists, and in opposition to the labels.

According to legal blogger Matthew Hopkins, much of the text of the site was changed last week after numerous complaints of libel — and today, the front page of the site bears a disclaimer.

“Note for those coming here when blocked, nowhere does the bot say you are anything, abusive, an MRA, whatever. Look at the tweet that added you and ask the blocker that blocked you. The levels are from annoying to abusive bigot, but that is merely a guide. The blocker adding the person makes the call, see why you were added.”

In other words, BlockBot’s tech team takes no responsibility for labels applied to people added to their list — after all, the words don’t come from the Bot itself, but from the users.

As for Richard Dawkins, there’s no sign he’s making any move to sue for libel — and if he made a habit of suing people for calling him names, Dawkins would be a busy man indeed. (His style, as you can see here, is more to bring the attacks into public view, or, when he deems necessary, to explain himself.)

[Photo by: Don Arnold/Getty Images]

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