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UK Man Jailed For 'Offensive Tweets' 922

Posted by timothy
from the hate-speech-join-the-crowd dept.
Motor writes "A UK judge has jailed a man for 56 days after he posted offensive comments on twitter about a footballer who had a heart attack during a game. He's also been thrown out of his university degree course weeks from graduating. His comments may have been offensive... but do they really justify a prison sentence and ruining his life?"
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UK Man Jailed For 'Offensive Tweets'

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  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:15PM (#39485463)

    Not just this story but other stories about censorship of the internet & television channels, indicate to me that free speech is no longer a right in the UK. That's a shame because that's where the right was first re-born in the modern world.

  • Re:You Americans. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jmac_the_man (1612215) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:15PM (#39485477)
    A Gridiron ("American") football is so named because when the game was invented, the ball was 12 inches long.

    Interestingly, Association football is named after the fact that it was originally played by peasants, on foot. (The comparison was to polo, which was played by rich people on horseback.)

    As for the importance of our respective footballs, is the championship game of your football season essentially a national holiday?

  • by plasm4 (533422) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:19PM (#39485527) Journal
    I made a similar submission this morning regarding this issue.

    This guy is being prosecuting for making critical remarks [guardian.co.uk] about British soldiers.

    These guys were sent to prison for encouraging rioting on Facebook [guardian.co.uk].

    The BBC has more information [bbc.co.uk] here.

    Everyone believes that Democracy won the cold war over Communism, but given what's happening in the west today, how true is that?
  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Baloroth (2370816) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:22PM (#39485587)

    He was found guilty of inciting racial hatred [bbc.co.uk] by a jury of his peers.

    And yes, we take that pretty seriously over here.

    But, apparently, not freedom of speech.

    Oh granted, the guy is clearly an asshole (even if he was drunk when he posted them). But I really don't think you should be imprisoned just for being a racist. He should get kicked out of school, sure, because the school doesn't want to be affiliated with someone who does that shit. But a criminal sentence for saying something? You do realize that it isn't a very big step between that, and a criminal sentence for saying anything a majority of people don't like, right? Can't have a democratic government without freedom of speech, and that includes the right to say hateful things, for good or for ill.

    I realize the UK doesn't have laws protecting what he did. I'm saying maybe it should, because not having them is worse than this guy not going to jail, in the long run.

  • by Mithent (2515236) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:25PM (#39485641)
    It's never been a codified right in the vein of the US First Amendment, other than through the European Convention on Human Rights - which allows for plenty of restrictions [wikipedia.org], including those "for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, [or] for the protection of the reputation or rights of others", all of which could be argued to be related to "inciting racial hatred".
  • Re:WTF? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bonch (38532) * on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:29PM (#39485719)

    He wasn't found guilty by a jury of his peers. He admitted his crime to the judge.

    So I must again ask, what kind of wacky police state does the UK have that it forces its police to chase Twitter trolls? "Inciting racial hatred" is a nebulous, highly subjective crime involving the expression of ideas. It's too easily abused by the government. And look at the consequences in this case--he is forbidden from using social networks and jailed for nearly two months because he trolled on Twitter.

    I could understand a fine, and I definitely understand getting kicked out of university. But a 56-day jail sentence for online trolling? Do you really not see the absurdity in this?

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Petron (1771156) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:29PM (#39485723)
    Cite a case where a person was jailed for 2+ years with the only 'evidence' is the cop's memory of what he smelled...
  • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:30PM (#39485731)

    At least he had trial. Unlike, say, the US where you can be interred indefinitely if you are a "terrorist suspect".

  • Agreed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:35PM (#39485835)

    And let's put this into the proper perspective. This man insuted another man. He did NOT initiate actual coercion (theft, fraud, physical force) or threat thereof. He simply insulted another man.

    Government, on the other hand, has clearly initiated coercion (actual physical force) against this man, the insensitive asshole.

    A real crime needs both an aggressor (the initiator of coercion) and a victim (the recipient of coercion). The real crime should be perfectly clear by now. The victim is the insensitive asshole, and the aggressor is government.

    The laws of human nature trump the laws of government by definition.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by beelsebob (529313) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @12:41PM (#39485927)

    He wasn't imprissoned for being a racist –he could have said "black guys are all cunts" all he liked. He was imprissoned for encouraging other people to commit violence against black people.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by interval1066 (668936) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @01:28PM (#39486763) Homepage Journal
    I see no difference. He can yell at people all day on a street corner here in the US to take up arms and kill all Chinese babies. You really think that's going to incite people to actually do that? If that's the case in Briton you people have serious problems. No only is he protected in doinf it here, he'd be looked at as insane. I guess you guys as a people have the very real danger of scratching your heads and saying "You know, that fellow is making sense.", so the Gov. needs to protect you from that, apparently.
  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rhodri Mawr (862554) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @01:39PM (#39487003)
    As a UK citizen, I have to question the sanity of this judgement. The gentleman in question is suspended from Swansea University at present (and, of course, unable to attend as he is in jail). He has admitted being very drunk when he tweeted. He has admitted initially claiming that his twitter account had been hacked after realising what he had done.

    It is hardly a good use of a prison place, or cost effective, or a deterrent to put a drunk student who has done something stupid in jail. If we did that to every drunk stupid student just in Swansea, we'd have jails overflowing even more than they are now, every night of the week.

    A long period of Community service and a requirement to do a meaningful race relations awareness course and, perhaps, a ban from social networks and alcohol would have been more than sufficient. Jail? It serves no useful purpose in this case and is ridiculous, and I say that as someone who is usually for longer prison sentences for proper (meaning violent) offenders.

    It now transpires that in fact, what I've just written, if it is considered to criticise the judiciary, may well be breaking the UK Law: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17522730 [bbc.co.uk] Now I hate Peter Hain as much as the next man, but that's law's more of an ass than he is.
  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MattBD (1157291) on Tuesday March 27, 2012 @01:47PM (#39487139) Homepage
    I'm not a lawyer either, but I do know that Britain has a rather sordid reputation as a venue for libel tourism. People have been using our legal system to go after someone else for libel when neither party has any affiliation with the UK. The US has actually had to pass laws barring U.S. courts from enforcing libel judgments issued in foreign courts against U.S. residents, if the speech would not be libellous under American law, largely because so many unscrupulous people have tried to get around the protections offered by the First Amendment by using Britain as a legal venue.

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