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Conference organisers swimming against the tide of Twitter

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j3966 (Published 06 September 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3966
  1. Dara Mohammadi, journalist
  1. London
  1. hello{at}daramohammadi.com

What happened when a medical association tried to censor what delegates at a scientific meeting could tweet? Dara Mohammadi reports

In June the American Diabetes Association (ADA) banned attendees at its 77th Scientific Sessions meeting from sharing photographs of presented slides on social media. Using its Twitter account, @AmDiabetesAssn, it personally and publicly asked each offending delegate to delete their tweets.1

This was met with a huge, defiant, and largely humorous reaction, with many tweets comparing the policy with Orwellian censorship. One commentator pointed to the absurdity of not being able to share a photograph from a presentation about “open innovation.”

Such was the force of the delegates’ response that an analysis of the meeting’s hashtag, #ADA2017, by Graham Mackenzie, a consultant in public health medicine at NHS Lothian, showed that the Twitter ban was a more popular topic of online conversation than anything presented at the meeting.2

“I don’t agree with what they did but I have sympathy for the ADA,” Mackenzie told The BMJ about the backlash. “When things start to go awry on Twitter, much like when a political party makes a bad move in an election campaign, it can be very difficult to put it back in the box.”

Intellectual property

The ADA has stood firm. In response to a request for an interview with The BMJ it emailed a statement, also sent to other outlets, saying that the ban was maintained to protect intellectual property which belonged to speakers and not the association.

“Upon registration,” the statement read, “all attendees …

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