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Police In Britain Arrest Man For Bomb-Threat Joke On Twitter 577

Posted by timothy
from the credibility-gap-looms dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A British man was arrested under anti-terrorism legislation for making a bomb joke on Twitter. Paul Chambers, 26, was arrested under the provisions of the Terrorism Act (2006). His crime? Frustrated at grounded flights over inclement weather, he made a joke bomb threat on the social networking site Twitter."
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Police In Britain Arrest Man For Bomb-Threat Joke On Twitter

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  • by fotoguzzi (230256) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:43AM (#30805870)
    We don't want to get slashdot in trouble.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by michelcolman (1208008)
      What if some hypothetical person was to threaten he would blow Slashdot sky high? Just a second, there's someone at the door...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by The FBI (1717712)

        What if some hypothetical person was to threaten he would blow Slashdot sky high?

        Just a second, there's someone at the door...

        Who was it?

      • by dimeglio (456244) on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:01AM (#30806258)

        Twitter is the megaphone of social networks. I'm surprise this is the first such arrest being reported. He's gonna get a background check and will probably need to take some anger management courses. Airports do not like being intimidated.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Don't antropomorphize airports. They don't usually tell it to your face but they really don't like it.

        • Or just be on the NO FLY LIST.

          • by Hojima (1228978) on Monday January 18, 2010 @11:59AM (#30808610)

            He doesn't deserve to get anything. A quote from the article: "On 13 January, after apparently receiving a tip-off from a member of the public, police arrived at Mr Chambers' office...I had to explain Twitter to them in its entirety because they'd never heard of it." So now there's a new recipe to be an asshole. Find any piece of written evidence of someone you hate that they "intend" to do ANYTHING harmful, and mail it to the police. Then anonymously report it and watch the police go ape-shit.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              Anonymous reporting isn't as easy as you might think in the UK.

              I once called in to report a particularly gruesome fight that was happening right outside my building. It took 5 minutes of them collecting information on *ME* (that was in no way particularly related to the call) before they would even start listening to the problem. And apparently that's protocol.

              One other time, a friend and I saw someone walk into a house (he didn't spot us) and seconds later we heard glass smashing, so we called the police

        • #88575 +(9158)- [X]

            I should bomb something ...and it's off the cuff remarks like that that are the reason I don't log chats
            Just in case the FBI ever needs anything on me
            I'm sure they can just get it from someone who DOES log chats.
          *** FBI has joined #gamecubecafe
            We saw it anyway.
          *** FBI has quit IRC (Quit: )

          http://www.bash.org/?88575 [bash.org]

    • by OldSoldier (168889) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:37PM (#30809070)

      Great, just great.

      First in the US we have a guy whose father turned him in and who was on several other countries no-fly-list and yet he's able to board an airplane and try to set off a bomb. Now we have a guy who made only one remark and the authorities are all over him.

      These 2 items are related by the failure of authorities to see the whole picture. In the Christmas day bomber case they didn't put the evidence together to realize he was a threat. In twitter-threat case they over-reacted to only one piece of evidence.

      I would hope that if authorities looked at the entire picture in both cases the proper course of action would have been self evident. So why aren't authorities looking at the WHOLE PICTURE before reacting?

  • by saisuman (1041662) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:46AM (#30805882)
    "Police in arrest man for Joke on Bomb-Thread Joke on Twitter."
  • Typical.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by malkavian (9512) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:56AM (#30805936) Homepage

    Of the way the world is heading. As I keep harping on about, and wish the politicians (and the police) would understand. Orwell's 1984 is a warning, not a "HOWTO manual".
    By the standard they've set on this, most of the populace should be under arrest by dint of the anti-terror laws, which over here in the UK are draconian, misguided and completely over the top.
    It really comes to something when we need to worry more about our own police and politicians than we ever would about a terror attack.

    • Gah (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mgns (934567) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:03AM (#30805978)
      Shit like this makes me wanna blow up Parliament
      • Re:Gah (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Krneki (1192201) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:06AM (#30805994)

        Shit like this makes me wanna blow up Parliament

        Remember, remember the 5th of November, the gun powder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gun powder treason should ever be forgot.

        • Re:Gah (Score:5, Informative)

          by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:33AM (#30806098)
          Guy Fawkes was a terrorist.

          Guy Fawkes was a revolutionary.
          • Re:Gah (Score:5, Funny)

            by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:00AM (#30806252) Homepage Journal

            You could always ask him [slashdot.org].

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by draco664 (960985)
        Just be sure not to send a note to all the Catholic MPs beforehand. No good deed goes unpunished.
    • Re:Typical.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yvanhoe (564877) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:06AM (#30805990) Journal
      Honestly, I'm not sure which side I'm on. The guy makes a joke on twitter, which is public and made for raw information without context. It is akin to write a tag saying the same thing in front of the airport. It is normal for police to investigate, I really don't blame them there. They quickly saw there was nothing to it. I prefer to criticize the airport (who banned the man for life) and his company which suspended him for a lack of common sense.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Uranium-238 (1586465)
      Frankly this is no different to making a threat against someone's life or any other kind of threat that would entail crime.
      • Re:Typical.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by internewt (640704) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:43AM (#30806170) Journal

        Frankly this is no different to making a threat against someone's life or any other kind of threat that would entail crime.

        But he didn't threaten anyone, unless you have the reading comprehension of a child and cannot see a joke when one is presented to you.... oh yeah, this is the same police that recently had to lower their testing pass mark as they weren't getting enough recruits. Looks like that policy's working!

        The guy from TFA made the mistake of saying something that allowed the pigs to use powers that if they don't use, they might lose!

        "Can't have that training be wasted" said police PR spokesman H. Himmler.

        • Re:Typical.. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Aceticon (140883) on Monday January 18, 2010 @09:42AM (#30807214)

          For a long while, the police in the UK has been set targets for number of arrests/convictions, number of crimes within certain categories and other such targets.

          The natural change of the behaviour of the police officers as a followup of these targets was:
          - The police started arresting people for things that previously were dealth with informally, for example, if a kid throws a stone and breaks a glass window he can now end in court: in the past, the local copper would typically have a serious talk with him, take him to his parents, get them to pay for repairs and that was it.
          - The police started pushing people to accept "Cautions" which are a formal admission of guild for minor crimes which does not require going to Court: this does create a Criminal Record for a person which might very well ruin their lives (for example, a Nursing Student got one of those because she was drunk and misbehaving, which resulted in her not being able to find any work as a nurse since she now had a criminal record).
          - The police started misreporting crimes (as being in a less serious category) or even avoiding reporting them altogether (I know of a at least one case where a bag was snatched from a baby-buggy which was left unattended and the police refused to file the case because "nobody saw the bag being taken from the baby-buggy, so how do we know you didn't lost it").

          At the same time, the increased bureaucratic overhead of keeping track of all those targets meant more time behind the desk and less time on the beat of the cops.

          This resulted in people loosing trust in the Police. The familiar, well-liked and trusted local "bob" (the police officer that does the rounds in a neighbourhood) that knew and was known by the people in his beat (usually having a "fair but firm" image) was replaced by a group of guys in uniform which don't know you and you don't know them, with most people not wanting to interact with unless they really have to (they way the law is now, they can pretty much arrest you for not being properly polite). The cops themselfs have become distant and distrusting in reaction - they adopted a Us vs Them mentality.

          The cops were taken out of the community and the community was taken out of the cops.

          Under this environment, is hardly surprising that most good people don't want to join the Police Force anymore: while
          in the past police officers were respected and trusted as wise users of the power they had (mostly prefering persuasion rather than force), nowadays they're mostly feared, distrusted and disliked.

          The sad bit is that the old soft target of "making people fell safe" was much better than whatever hard targets they set for the police nowadays.

      • Re:Typical.. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jurily (900488) <jurily@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:45AM (#30806186)

        Right. Because we all know, everyone is serious on the internet.

        Nobody should be arrested because the authorities don't have a sense of humor.

  • Celebrating 800 years of political violence in the Nottingham area!

  • sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by abigsmurf (919188) on Monday January 18, 2010 @05:59AM (#30805960)
    It is depressing as hell to be a British citizen.

    You get arrested then released without charge, the police take and store your DNA. The EU human rights court says this is illegal and wrong, Labour say they don't care.

    You get accused of a sexual offence, it gets recorded. Even if the accusation is entirely baseless and the person who made it is jailed for making it, you'll still have it on your record. Good luck getting a job with children when that accusation is revealed to a potential employer. Even worse, the government can put a court order on these that make it illegal for an employer to reveal why you failed a background check. You're given no legal recourse to this, even if a mistake has been made and you're accidentally added to the register.

    You can have (consensual) kinky sex, but if you video it, you're a sex offender. You can be 18 and have sex with a 17 year old legally but videotape it, you're a sex offender. Draw two stickpeople having sex, label one of them as being 17, you guessed it, you're a sex offender.

    Organise a protest criticising against soldier in Afganistan and Iraq? That'll be declared illegal and you'll be arrested on public decency charges.

    Being held 30 days without charge? Not enough! We must change the law to make it 90 days! After all, you wouldn't have been arrested it you weren't guilty!

    It's rather depressing that Labour are supposedly the left leaning of the two main parties. I would hope that the Conservatives would cancel some of these laws when they're in power but I doubt it. Removing laws is pretty hard and the tabloids would crucify them.
    • Re:sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zwei2stein (782480) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:14AM (#30806032) Homepage

      (Leftist party is kind of expected to make such draconian laws in order to "protect" public: it is the very essence of being nanny state.)

      You know what is actually depressing about this?

      People do nothing about it. Chances are, joe sixpack is not going to be bothered by it because chances are he is not going to be bitten by such law. Because as long as you sheep your way throught life and spend evening watching telly, you are safe. All it takes is to simply allow some freedom taken away - freedoms which ordinary people rarely make uses of it is not surprising they are not bothered by disappearance of them.

      • Re:sigh (Score:5, Informative)

        by rve (4436) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:43AM (#30806166)

        (Leftist party is kind of expected to make such draconian laws in order to "protect" public: it is the very essence of being nanny state.)

        I think you're projecting the American situation on another country.

        What it means to be 'liberal' or 'conservative' can be vastly different depending where you are. In mainland Europe 'Liberals' tend to favor more freedom (hence the name liberal) at the expense of having less order and safety, while conservatives tend to favor more order and security at the expense of more repression.

        You might find that the conservative vs liberal divide is (as far as I'm aware) uniquely American.

        Some anecdotal evidence:

        In Turkey, conservatives struggle to protect the strict separation of religion and state against liberals who wish to relax it. Where I live, conservative Christian politicians find their natural allies in the Green party, both wanting to roll the country back to some mythical idyllic past when it looked the way either God or Mother Nature intended, homosexuals join extreme right wing parties (because they feel threatened by Muslim immigration), liberals aim to restrict government interference in people's lives while conservatives wish the government to protect us from every real and imaginary threat conceivable.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by internewt (640704)

          I just boils down to the fact that a one dimensional, or even binary, way of measuring political points of view does doesn't work.

          Well, it works for one group: the American ruling class.

          Whilst the electorate are busy slagging off the other side, the ruling class pretty much get all they want. They might have to bring things in slowly, or policies might need a few attempts at bringing in (lip service to democracy), but sooner or later they'll get their way.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's rather depressing that Labour are supposedly the left leaning of the two main parties. I would hope that the Conservatives would cancel some of these laws when they're in power but I doubt it. Removing laws is pretty hard and the tabloids would crucify them.

      Even when the Conservatives are elected, the tabloids will still be in power.

  • Dissent (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kegon (766647) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:01AM (#30805970)

    How very, very sad. How can anyone think for one second that his tweet was serious ? What a bunch of idiots. Not only the authorities but also the person who reported him.

    It seems we're slowly moving to a state where only correct thinking is allowed. No joking, no sense of humour, irony or annoyance.

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:04AM (#30805982) Homepage Journal
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoPPvPbe-SM [youtube.com]
    They really like to "ground" people in the UK who make a fuss :)
    All this web 2.0 stuff is watched by NSA, CIA, FBI, GCHQ, state task forces and your local PD.
    So if your having a lol, remember who provided the seed cash to many of more 'effortless' web 2.0 sites.
  • VERY slow response (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MartinSchou (1360093) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:09AM (#30806004)

    Obviously the police didn't take the threat seriously at all:

    A week after posting the message on the social networking site, he was arrested

    If it takes the police to find Paul J Chambers [twitter.com] when there a PICTURE [twimg.com] of him on his Twitter profile AND it tells you he's from Doncaster, England.

    Now, I'm not the police, but I think that if I had access to a phone book of Doncaster, I could probably find the guy in a few hours. Given that he's 90% likely to have a drivers license, it's not like it'd make it any more difficult to find him.

    Geez!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by amRadioHed (463061)

      How do you know how fast they responded? It was seven days after he made the post that he was arrested, but we don't know how long it was before the police were aware of the post.

  • by dugeen (1224138) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:09AM (#30806006) Journal
    They always claim that they have to take all jokes seriously. But really these events are about punishing people who heckle during performances at the security theatre.
  • "I'm going to eat at until I explode"

  • Stolen from the comments in the Independent: Why do British police go about in threes? One can read, one can write, the other keeps an eye on the 2 dangerous subversive intellectuals.

    Seems appropriate. Although I would say that French police aren't any better, they just go about in pairs.

  • by selven (1556643) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:38AM (#30806130)

    I would make a fake bomb threat in an airport, and then... just leave.

    Millions of dollars wasted, millions of dollars more airport security theater implemented just because, and to top it off no actual bomb needed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:40AM (#30806142)

    I agree with the Slashdot opinion that Britain tends to go overboard with police action lately, but honestly in this case I'm not so sure they were wrong. The man wrote:

    Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!

    Sounds like a bomb threat to me. I didn't see any context indicating that this is merely a joke.

    I was taught by my parents, many many years before 9/11, that making bomb threats, even jokingly, is a bad idea because if anyone mistakenly takes you seriously, it WILL get you in trouble and possibly arrested. Maybe this guy's mom should have taught him the same thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jason Levine (196982)

      I was taught by my father to joke when you're frustrated.

      When my parents went on their honeymoon in Jamaica, my mother broke her neck after looking under a small waterfall. After some time in a run down hospital, they cut their honeymoon short and headed home. Unfortunately, they were redirected to Chicago. My father insisted that there had better be medical personnel on the ground. When they landed, the plane didn't approach the airport. Instead, it sat on the runway while police and ambulances surrou

  • idiot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chentiangemalc (1710624) on Monday January 18, 2010 @06:48AM (#30806200) Homepage
    Interesting a lot of people defending this guy - but threatening to blow up an airport is just stupid. this is nothing new with bomb threats though , even pre-9/11 when in primary school somebody called our principal and made a bomb threat, and the whole school had to be cleared for the day while it was searched, and even though no bomb was found the police still spent some effort to find the prankster, because even as a joke there is a necessity for such threats to be investigated, and is a waste of police resources and time. don't even bother with proxy, just don't make bomb threats, it's not smart or funny.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by krou (1027572)
      If he got on the phone and called the airport, I may agree with you. But making a comment on his private Twitter account? What's next, imprisonment because you make a comment in an IRC chatroom as a joke to someone else? A private message on Messenger or Skype? Even if he made the comment on a public Twitter account, it's difficult to understand how anyone could've taken what he wrote as a serious, credible bomb threat. Frankly, the police in this country are out of control. I'm sick of total surveillance a
    • Re:idiot (Score:4, Insightful)

      by westlake (615356) on Monday January 18, 2010 @07:58AM (#30806540)

      Interesting a lot of people defending this guy - but threatening to blow up an airport is just stupid
      don't even bother with proxy, just don't make bomb threats, it's not smart or funny

      The proxy is a particularly stupid idea - and all too typically geek. If your defenses are breached, you will be approached as a real threat. No more fun and games.

      Staten Island Teen Arrested in Apple Store Bomb Threat [nbcnewyork.com] [Jam 13]

  • by judgecorp (778838) on Monday January 18, 2010 @08:13AM (#30806602) Homepage
    At eWEEK Europe, we have spoken to his employers, and confirmed that he is suspended from work [eweekeurope.co.uk] for the next couple of weeks. The damage to his work prospects may be the most serious aspect of the story. We await any comment from the company concerned. Peter Judge
  • Dumb vs. Stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mseeger (40923) on Monday January 18, 2010 @08:21AM (#30806636)

    While the police action did not speak for much common sense and understanding of modern communication, neither does the Twitter posting speak of intelligence of the poster. Saying "You got one week to get your shit together or i will blow you sky high" can be interpreted wrongly and IMHO you have to be quite dumb to make such jokes in public.

    I think both parties involved have trouble with Twitter. The police had no method of putting that posting into a context. They interpreted it as a standalone message. The poster did not care, how that statement looks as a standalone message. For him his own Twitter context was applied automagically.

    While i put quite some blame on the police, i do not think the poster is free of it. Been questioned for several hours seems to be fair for that. But being suspended from the job and banned for life from that airport is very excessive IMHO.

    CU, Martin

  • by Seismologist (617169) on Monday January 18, 2010 @08:28AM (#30806662)
    This pretty much sums it up for me from TFA:

    The civil libertarian Tessa Mayes, an expert on privacy law and free speech issues, said: "Making jokes about terrorism is considered a thought crime, mistakenly seen as a real act of harm or intention to commit harm. "The police's actions seem laughable and suggest desperation in their efforts to combat terrorism, yet they have serious repercussions for all of us. In a democracy, our right to say what we please to each other should be non-negotiable, even on Twitter."

  • Hooray! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Monday January 18, 2010 @10:45AM (#30807802) Homepage Journal
    The terrorists have finally succeeded in making it possible to arrest someone for being an idiot! Maybe there's a silver lining to this cloud....
  • by aynoknman (1071612) on Monday January 18, 2010 @12:23PM (#30808866)
    Having by and large abandoned sexual taboos, we now have a whole new range of taboos having to do with our physical security.
    "Don't ride your bicycle without a helmet"
    "Don't smoke"
    "Don't mention bombs in airports"

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