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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."
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UK Politician Arrested Over Twitter 'Stoning Joke'

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  • 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?"

    • Re:Doing in wrong... (Score:4, Informative)

      by CraftyJack (1031736) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:35PM (#34198926)
      Yep. For those that need a refresher [wikipedia.org].
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mashiki (184564)

      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.

      • Are you fucking kidding?

        There's a hell of a lot wrong with this country but that's not one of the problems. The UK has been one of the most active in the world in dealing with the problem of arranged marriages, and other abuse. We've been pouring a fortune into it with a number of high profile convictions, as well as countless other cases of assisting people in getting out of those kind of situations. Our country even intervenes politically and legally as far as it can in situations where people have been t

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Fembot (442827)

      And he would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those pesky kids...

  • 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.
    • 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: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.
        • Re:Asshat (Score:5, Funny)

          by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:07PM (#34200092) Journal

          That all depends on who you ask.

          I was not aware that Yasmin was a Muslim in support of democracy and women's rights. Knowing that now, I think asking for her to be stoned to death enhances the joke. It's much funnier.

        • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Reziac (43301) *

            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.

      • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

          >>>Your freedom to swing your words stops at deathtreats.

          Not in the US where the supreme court has ruled again-and-again that speech is fully protected. The only exception is if the person issuing the death-threat is holding a gun or knife at the time, and the victim is in immediatee danger. This politician clearly wasn't endangering anybody since he was nowhere near the victim.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tangent3 (449222)

        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.

  • Stupid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Antisyzygy (1495469)
    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: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:5, Funny)

        by Antisyzygy (1495469) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:24PM (#34198790)
        Sure thing. On the movie set when a bad guy threatens to kill the good guy it should be taken the same way. You cannot prove they weren't serious. What about when you get pissed off at someone and say "God, I want to kill you!". You cannot prove you weren't serious. Common sense would tell you this man didn't want to actually kill someone.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jav1231 (539129)
          The UK doesn't have Freedom of Speech. It's that simple.
          • I would argue that everyone is born with freedom of speech, along with a right to do just about anything. They give it up when they decide to continue being citizens.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jmac_the_man (1612215)
              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..."

      • by Entropius (188861)

        It is also illegal in the US, but the threat has to be credible. Are threats with no credibility (i.e. a man with no arms saying "I'm going to strangle you!") still illegal in the UK?

    • It's absolutely ridiculous...anyone with a modicum of reason would assume that it was a joke. Making a threat is enough to investigate, in many cases, but a clear joke does not warrant arrest.

      Funny part is, though, that he is now a victim of a stupid law that he may have been a party to legislating.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JaredOfEuropa (526365)
      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,
      • Re:Stupid (Score:5, Informative)

        by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @03:14PM (#34199406)

        You need to put it his comments in context. She said that UK politicians have no right to comment on things like stoning of women in Iran, presumably because that's a Muslim thing and she's a "political correctness" extremist who would sooner allow an innocent teenager to die a horrible death than dare insult precious male Muslim feelings. He shouldn't have even apologized, never mind get arrested. It's obviously a sarcastic response to her comments and in no way an incitement to violence.

        • I agree, context needs to be taken into account. The problem is that Twitter does not really provide a lot of context... The fact that this is by no means the first time a tweet was taken out of context and taken the wrong way, has little to do with people misunderstanding the medium, and a lot with the medium itself.
        • 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??

  • On one hand... it seems odd to get arrested, convicted, etc., for a joke.

    On the other hand, saying "oh come on guys, it was just a joke!" seems like it could easily turn into the "insanity" plea. True in some cases, but easy to claim for pretty much anything.

    • by mosb1000 (710161)

      Of course, he hasn't physically done anything. It'd be different if he bludgeoned someone to death and then claimed he was only kidding.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Theaetetus (590071)

      On the other hand, saying "oh come on guys, it was just a joke!" seems like it could easily turn into the "insanity" plea.

      Unlikely. See, what most people don't know and never bother to find out because they're too busying being incensed over people "getting off" under an insanity plea, is that while you don't go to jail if you plead insanity, you instead go to a prison mental ward... where you can be kept forever. That's right - if you just plead out of a 10-20 year sentence by claiming you were insane, you just opted into a potential life sentence. The state can keep you locked up in the mental ward until they believe you're

      • Not all the time, according to speakout.com, which I cannot paste due to Chrome, bah.

        Yes, I know that can happen and has happened, but the point is it's a subjective hard-to-verify excuse. "Oh, I wasn't threatening, I was joking! He's just overreacting!"

        Is that what htis is? Meh, probably not. Hence the "torn" part of my post. But I'd rather not, at some point, get threatened, have my threatener stopped short of something he might have done, and have him get off because he was "joking." ;)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AK Marc (707885)
          "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 ma
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Worthless? Pointing out that what the previous post said happened, as though it happened all the time, does not happen all the time? I guess a percentage would be nice. I haven't found one yet.

            So we're stuck apparently. Neither of us has the numbers you want, right? I'm not sure why the burden of proof is on me at this point.

            Unfortunately, I have looked/read online and can only find usage and "success" rates, but not rates of success getting a lower time-served sentence (asylum vs. prison).

    • Wait, it's a joke! Don't mod me troll/flamebait!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hatta (162192)

      I'm wondering what the context is here. What provoked him to make this "joke"?

      I think there ought to be an exception for jokes, but only funny ones. That solves the loophole, and punishes people for making bad jokes. Win-win.

  • Ridiculous. I can appreciate that talking about bombs while going through airport security is not appropriate, but a joke on Twitter? Come on already! Who says who says what. Don't like it, don't follow him - that's sort of the whole point of how these social networks work.

    • by vux984 (928602)

      I can appreciate that talking about bombs while going through airport security is not appropriate.

      I honestly can't even appreciate that. And honestly the people TALKING about bombs while going through airport security aren't all that likely to be carrying one.

  • I read the headline and thought it was something else about Prop 19. :b
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:25PM (#34198808)
    The problem with political jokes is they get elected.
  • by NiteShaed (315799) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:27PM (#34198832)

    ....at the time the joke was made, but police didn't believe him since he had no Alibhai.

  • Mojo Nixon is charged with inciting violence against Don Henley.

  • Nanny state (Score:3, Informative)

    by Teun (17872) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:34PM (#34198910) Homepage
    The UK has in the last 15-odd years become the example Nanny State.

    A day doesn't pass that either one of the tabloids is blasting the government for not acting on a perceived threat or an official or government department coming out with what should really be considered an outrageous policy.

    A nice one was (yesterday?) the stopping of the head of MI6 from boarding a plane to the US because she had a can of hairspray larger than the allowed 100 milliliters in her bag.

    Yes it's outside of the allowance but hey she's not exactly your typical terrist!

    In the UK common sense has been outlawed.

  • 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.

    • by melikamp (631205)

      "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

      This is a literal threat. This says, literally, that the speaker will detonate something at an airport, unless his demands are met. The only way to not perceive this as a threat is by reading between the lines and assuming a context that's just not there. When you say this kind of thing at a bar to a friend, where the context is well understood by everyone in the audience (they know you personally!), it is clear that this is merely a hyperbolic expression. When you post this on a widely publicized site like

      • by russotto (537200)

        This is a literal threat. This says, literally, that the speaker will detonate something at an airport, unless his demands are met. The only way to not perceive this as a threat is by reading between the lines and assuming a context that's just not there.

        Right. Ever seen _My Cousin Vinnie_? The sheriff accuses Ralph Macchio's character of shooting a convenience store clerk. He replies, in an incredulous tone: "I shot the clerk". The sheriff later introduces this in court as a confession. That's about w

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Rogerborg (306625)
        When we make first contact with the Vulcans, I'm nominating you for ambassador. They don't get irony either.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:43PM (#34199022)

    He sings, "Everybody must get stoned!"

    Inciting violence! Against everybody!

  • by Calibax (151875) * on Thursday November 11, 2010 @02:47PM (#34199072)

    Both the twitter posts cited in the article are jokes in poor taste by frustrated people, but are they evidence of intent to kill someone or blow up a plane? People bent on that sort of act rarely advertise their intent on some public media.

    What's next? Being prosecuted for threatening to kill someone's character in World of Warcraft?

    When I was a cop there were dozens of times that angry and/or frustrated people made comments (to me or to others) like "I'll kill you" or "You're dead if you do that again" or something similar. You have to make allowances for frustration and understand it's only human nature to make threats. Of course, it's different if you think they might actually do what they say, but that's not the usual case - people who are going to attack you just do it, they don't threaten first.

    The difference is that on twitter (indeed, the internet in general) there's a permanent record. That plus a stupid/malicious prosecutor plus a judge who doesn't understand human nature is a recipe for damn stupid legal decisions.

  • I don't get the joke. can someone explain it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jmac_the_man (1612215)
      The joke is that the woman who he "said should be stoned" said that no British politician should be able to complain about stoning in Muslim countries, because Muslim culture allows for stoning.
      He then "said she should be stoned."
      The implication here is that she has no right to complain about him wanting to have someone stoned.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fishexe (168879)

        The joke is that the woman who he "said should be stoned" said that no British politician should be able to complain about stoning in Muslim countries, because Muslim culture allows for stoning. He then "said she should be stoned." The implication here is that she has no right to complain about him wanting to have someone stoned.

        Dude...that's so meta...I think you just blew my mind. It's like when the Offspring sold T-shirts with the Napster logo on them, and Napster sued them for copyright infringement.

  • Regardless of the particular rights and wrongs, both these cases have arisen because in England and Wales (not the UK - legal systems are different, and I do not know about Scots law) we theoretically have equality under the law.

    It cuts both ways. If a Muslim cleric calls for stoning unbelievers and we arrest him, we have to be equally heavy handed with non-Muslims making similar statements.

    I feel sorry for "airport guy" who has suffered far more than the case warrants - but he has failed to think it throug

  • Is Wendy Testaburger using your lunch money to buy heroin?
    Will someone stone a journalist to death for me?

    I'm just asking the hard questions.
    Signing off, this is casey miller

  • Wenn ist das Nunstruck git und Slotermeyer? Ja! Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!

    .
  • Flipped? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ender_Wiggin (180793) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:06PM (#34200082)

    Pretend for a moment that a Muslim posted on Twitter that a UK politician should be stoned to death. Considering the attempted murder of a MP recently and the UK removing YouTube videos, I'm sure that they'd get arrested. I doubt slashdotters would stand up for him in the same manner as they're doing for this jerk.

  • by BatGnat (1568391) on Thursday November 11, 2010 @04:18PM (#34200232)

    Now look, no one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle. Even...and I want to make this absolutely clear...even if they do say "Jehovah".

  • 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.

  • by tehcyder (746570) on Friday November 12, 2010 @07:35AM (#34205314) Journal
    Was that, since the Iraq war and allegations of torture by British troops, she did not think British politicians were qualified to criticise human rights abuses in China. Anyone who reads this as approval of the stoning of women in Iran is a fucking idiot.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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