Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Crime United Kingdom Your Rights Online Idle

UK Politician Arrested Over Twitter 'Stoning Joke' 422

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-how-you-tweet dept.
History's Coming To writes "The BBC is reporting that a Tory city councillor has been arrested over a 'joke' he posted to Twitter suggesting that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a UK based writer, be stoned to death. The full tweet read, 'Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really.' Following complaints he was arrested under the Communications Act 2003 and bailed. He has since apologized. This comes on the same day that a conviction for a Twitter 'joke' about blowing up an airport was upheld."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

UK Politician Arrested Over Twitter 'Stoning Joke'

Comments Filter:
  • Doing in wrong... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Qzukk (229616) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:09PM (#34198602) Journal

    Obviously he should have phrased it "Won't someone rid me of this meddlesome columnist?"

  • Asshat (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:09PM (#34198606)
    Joking about killing a writer whose views you don't agree with? Surely they teach you not to do that in their "Politics: Good Manners 101" class.
  • Stupid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Antisyzygy (1495469) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:10PM (#34198616)
    This is somewhat ridiculous. I know its not the US, so the laws are different, but who really cares if this man says something like that, as long as he doesn't follow through with it. If I were him I would not apologize.
  • Re:Asshat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirThe (1927532) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:15PM (#34198688)
    Maybe, but he still shouldn't be arrested for it!
  • Re:About The news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shikaku (1129753) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:16PM (#34198700)

    Can someone please stone spammers to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:19PM (#34198736) Journal
    In the UK, it is illegal to threaten to kill someone. There is no exemption for it being just a joke, because that provides a pretty trivial loophole ('Oh, did he take it seriously officer? I was only joking...').
  • Re:Stupid (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:31PM (#34198858)

    Actually, it's his problem now. When are people going to realize there are consequences for what they say? Having free speech doesn't mean you have freedom from responsiblity. His arrest and hopefully conviction for making a death threat will teach him this lesson.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:31PM (#34198860)

    It takes just one determined (and mentally ill) person who does not see this as a joke for a murder to happen. This is one of the main reasons why this kind of 'joke' is not acceptable.

    However, if you assume someone of that sort of mental illness, you can't guarantee he/she'll misinterpret anything else you say as an "order" to murder someone. If you start down the path of kowtowing to people whose mental deficiencies give them homicidal tendencies, you don't solve any problems. Ever.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:35PM (#34198922)

    It takes just one determined (and mentally ill) person who does not see this as a joke for a murder to happen. This is one of the main reasons why this kind of 'joke' is not acceptable.

    People are morons, the correct way to make the joke is using sarcasm; "Hope no nutjob stones this person to death, that'd be terrible". Is there a single case (ever) of a mentally ill individual murdering a 3rd party because they took a joke literally?

    How about stuff like "Do us all a favour, go fuck a power outlet"... should phrases like that be banned because one in a hundred million people are stupid or would it merely prove the point in such exceptional circumstances?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:35PM (#34198930)

    "Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary."
        -- Robert Louis Stevenson

  • by russotto (537200) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:38PM (#34198974) Journal

    ...and more specifically, how a law that on the surface seems perfectly reasonable can be so easily misused.

    The law is against menacing, the statement -- made publicly, not directed at any given person -- is
    "Crap! 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!!"

    Any sensible person can see there is no threat there, it's just someone being a drama queen. But it violates the letter of the law and it's politically expedient to ignore the obvious.

    Similarly,
    "Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really."
    is not a serious solicitation to murder; it's just someone being an ass. Or making a point in an offensive way, given that he says he was responding to a comment by Alibhai-Brown that no politician has the right to comment on human rights abuses, including the stoning of women in Iran.

    I would presume that this [bbc.co.uk] is the program in question, though I haven't listened to it so don't know.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:39PM (#34198978) Homepage

    Sam Kinnison said it best, "You'd have gotten the same thing from the Monkees!". Crazy people might interpret nearly anything as a command from God to do a crazy thing if that's what they're predisposed to. If we're going to restrict speech based on the possibility that a crazy person might mis-interpret it, then we can't say anything at all, including "Hi" or an acknowledging grunt. Of course, silence might also be "creatively" interpreted....

  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:43PM (#34199028)

    Having free speech doesn't mean you have freedom from responsiblity.

    Nine time out of ten, people who say this really mean "I don't really believe in free speech at all". And you are not number ten.

  • Re:About The news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by amiga3D (567632) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:50PM (#34199106)

    Stoning is far too good for spammers. They should be burned at the stake.

  • by fantomas (94850) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:57PM (#34199172)

    >Where do you have greater freedom of speech and presumption of innocence: Britain or Saudi Arabia?

    On balance I'd say Britain

    >Where are you more likely to be harassed by police for trivialities: Britain or Saudi Arabia?

    Not sure, do you have the figures that you could share with us?

    >Every day the two look more alike.

    Evidence from, say the last 5 days: could you give us five separate summaries to prove this point?

    >And now I will commit a crime in the eyes of England:

    I suppose you mean "in the laws of England". Are you aware that England and Britain are different?

  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:59PM (#34199206) Journal
    People in Europe should rightly be worried about free speech laws. They are already a lot stricter than the US ones, and I am very much in favour of allowing more free speech in Europe, not less. I think all speech should be allowed...

    ...except direct calls for violence against individuals and groups. And that is exactly what this is. He didn't even add a smiley... how is this to be interpreted as a joke? The guy does not deserve full punishment for this, but arrest and prosecution are warranted IMHO, if only to give him a slap on the wrist for utterly irresponsibly behaviour. This is a bit like yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theatre.
  • Re:Asshat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitig (1056110) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:04PM (#34199264)
    Given that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a Muslim secularist and campaigner for democracy and women's rights (amongst other things), I think that there is a real chance that there are many who wouldn't see calling for her to be stoned to death as a joke, and there is good reason for the tweet to be considered incitement to violence. Joking about the death of a random celeb is one thing; it's another thing when that person really is already at serious risk of violence.
  • by russotto (537200) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:04PM (#34199266) Journal

    Maybe he shouldn't make that point in an offensive way?

    Your dedication to the principle of freedom of speech is touching.

    Maybe he should dispute points and present his opinions.

    Maybe that wouldn't be as effective as being nasty.

    Or would he rather just slander everyone to death?

    There's no slander involved here.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:04PM (#34199270)
    The UK doesn't have Freedom of Speech. It's that simple.
  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:04PM (#34199272)

    Do you honestly think that someone who would murder based on this tweet wouldn't have committed murder anyway?

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:26PM (#34199576) Homepage

    "All he asked was a rhetorical question. "

    I don't know what planet you are from, but "Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death?" is not a rhetorical question here on planet Earth. It is a direct request. In the USA said person could go to jail for life if somebody read the request and actually granted it. This is in fact quite appropriate. Blasting such a request across the internet to hundreds of thousands of people, any one of which could be an instable nutbag, is gross negligence at best, and any death resulting from gross negligence is and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:30PM (#34199614) Homepage

    Well the UK turns a blind eye on women abuses in their own country by middle-eastern and northern african immigrants, but a politician makes a crude joke and they're all over it. The UK is doomed.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmac_the_man (1612215) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:33PM (#34199642)
    I would argue that the reason men form governments (thus allowing for citizenship) is to protect the rights that everyone is born/Endowed by their Creator with, and thus they shouldn't have to give up those rights to be citizens.

    I'd also argue that the next Briton who accuses the US of being "less free" than Europe must be stoned.*

    *Not must "must be" in the sense of "somebody should go out and make sure that..." but more in the sense of "It's obvious that... is already..."

  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:35PM (#34199674)
    Bullshit.

    Any sane person can see that this is a joke. Those that aren't sane are at risk for violent behavior already and -anything- can put them over the edge. Plus, this was a guy on a city council. A city. council. I don't know about you, but the people on my city council I really don't care what they say personally or not. This isn't an MP, this isn't the Queen, this isn't David Cameron or Nick Clegg saying this its some random city council member.

    Free speech should be free speech, especially when it comes to things that are obviously jokes. If someone was going to kill this person, they were going to do it no matter what some random city councilor said or not.

    Yes, it was an off-color (or would it be colour?) joke that wasn't very professional. Could people demand he not be re-elected and elect someone else? Yes. Should they arrest someone for an obvious joke? No.
  • by Tom Boz (1570397) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:39PM (#34199716)
    This is a great point. If you're going to do the mental gymnastics to translate a question (Is ___ possible?) to a threat, then you ought to be capable of *also* realizing this is a joke. Either take things at face value or don't; self-translating someone's sentence into a threat just for a prosecution is garbage.
  • Re:Torn... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:42PM (#34199750)
    "Not all the time" is a worthless statement. Give the percentage of the time. Otherwise, you are not adding information to the discussion. Almost nothing is "all the time" and so assertions of an obvious nature that aren't related to the general case are worthless.

    What is the average time "served" for someone who successfully pleads insanity vs the average time actually served by those convicted of the same crime? What is the recidivism rate for each? Without those, exceptional cases, no matter how many, are useless.
  • Re:Asshat (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Scrameustache (459504) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:02PM (#34200034) Homepage Journal

    Maybe, but he still shouldn't be arrested for it!

    Your freedom to swing your words stops at deathtreats.

  • Re:Asshat (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:09PM (#34200106) Journal

    I've read through all the comments to this article and I haven't seen anyone yet suggest that the councillor was perfectly serious, just hoped he could get away with it. Perhaps he wasn't expecting that this would push someone over the edge to do what they have already been wanting to do to her for years, but there is no question that it was one conservative from one culture helping to legitimise the view of another in another.

    It is interesting to ask whether speech protections should include the right to say, "Give an opinion that I don't like and I shall call for your death."

  • Re:Asshat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tangent3 (449222) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:17PM (#34200220)

    Why not? It's for the courts to decide if he's guilty of a crime, and for the police and prosecution to charge him with what is possibly a crime.

  • Re:Asshat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Myopic (18616) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:20PM (#34200254)

    Can you propose how to distinguish between a "rhetorical" threat against a person's life, and an actual threat against a person's life? I've tried to think of a few ways, and for all of them this would fall on the "actual" side.

  • Re:Asshat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:26PM (#34200358)

    The mistake people make is they think twitter or face book (etc.) is like talking to your 3 best friends at the local pub.

    Then they broadcast it to thousands (millions?) of people.

    To me both this and the linked articles were CLEARLY jokes.
    I can't believe the asshat of a judge in the "blow up the airport" joke.

    But.. people do get fired for saying something dumb and then hit "reply all" to the corporate mailing list.

    I think the line should be clear for twitter that it's like standing on a building shouting these things with a bullhorn. It bothers me more when changing privacy rules move the line after you said something.

  • by tverbeek (457094) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:40PM (#34200532) Homepage

    "...should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

    As long as "the full extent of the law" is to require the speaker to live with the the guilt and shame of having said something which inadvertently led to someone's death, I agree with you.

  • Re:Asshat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reziac (43301) * on Thursday November 11, 2010 @08:03PM (#34202476) Homepage Journal

    FuckingNickName says,

    It is interesting to ask whether speech protections should include the right to say, "Give an opinion that I don't like and I shall call for your death."

    That's the single most insightful (and perhaps inciteful) comment in this whole discussion.

  • Apologized? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @08:04PM (#34202486)

    Apologized? What did he apologize for? Even if he meant it, whatever happened to freedom of speech? Forget it. I already know the answer. The corrupt governments of the world are abolishing it and/or never implementing it in the first place.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Reziac (43301) * on Thursday November 11, 2010 @08:08PM (#34202536) Homepage Journal

    And even if it were a purposeful incitement to violence --

    Who is truly responsible there -- the person urging violence, or the people who actually take it upon themselves to commit the violence that is urged??

    Are we all so stupid as to do everything some twit exhorts us to do??

  • Re:Asshat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by digitig (1056110) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @08:42PM (#34202734)

    wtf? You seriously think there was ever any remote likelihood that anybody would actually try and stone her to death?

    A Muslim woman publicly and prominently stands up against the Islamic religious authorities? I think there's every chance she's at risk of violence, and that there are those who would like to stone her to death (although that might be difficult for them to implement, so I expect they'd content themselves with other means).

    And she rightly says, "If I, as a Muslim woman, had said about him what he said about me then I would be arrested in these times of the war against terror."

All this wheeling and dealing around, why, it isn't for money, it's for fun. Money's just the way we keep score. -- Henry Tyroon

Working...