Paul Chambers, a 26 year-old man from Doncaster has been found guilty of posting an “indecent, obscene or menacing” tweet. Yes, a tweet, on Twitter. In his own words, the tweet was “innocuous hyperbole”. In other words, not harmful, offensive or meant to be taken seriously. Reading the tweet, I can certainly see that. Judge for yourselves:
Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week… otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!
Note that this was posted in the context of the airport being closed before he was due to fly. It was not actually directed at the airport, but when found by an employee was reported to the police, who arrested him. He has been fined£1,000 and now has a criminal record. Ever the gentleman, Stephen Fry has offered to shout the fine, but the man’s life will almost certainly take an unnecessary dent* from this fiasco and I can’t help but wonder how the average British tax-payer feels, knowing how the justice budget is being spent.
I found the Judge’s words to be the most staggering part of the story:
A district judge ruled the Tweet was “of a menacing nature in the context of the times in which we live”.
Tell me, what isn’t menacing in the context of the times in which we live? Have we really made so little progress in our efforts to combat terrorism over the last decade? What good is an expensive ‘War on Terror’ abroad if we still live in terror at our computers?
More painful though, is the ironic reference to context. Since, in the context of the times in which we live, isn’t this OBVIOUSLY a joke?
*Update: It seems Paul was half-way through his accountancy qualification. The conviction will officially prevent him from graduating. That makes me a sad panda.