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Twitter Bomb Joke Case Rolls Back Into UK Courts 174

Posted by Soulskill
from the 140-characters-of-terror dept.
judgecorp writes "Paul Chambers, the Briton whose joke on Twitter backfired, will be back in court following a legal stalemate, after more than two years. Chambers joked about blowing up South Yorkshire's Robin Hood airport in January 2010, and was arrested and fined for 'sending a public electronic message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.' His resultant criminal record lost him his job as an accountant. Now his appeal has been heard, but the two judges disagreed with each other, so Chambers will be back in court again."
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Twitter Bomb Joke Case Rolls Back Into UK Courts

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  • by T-Bucket (823202) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @08:12PM (#40150407) Homepage

    Seriously, who the hell uses their real information on a goddamned twitter account?!?!

  • by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @08:54PM (#40150787)
    How can a threat to bomb an airport be considered as a joke?

    Because of something called "context". If I go to a comedy club, and the comedian on-stage tells a joke and then says as the punchline, "And I'm going to blow up the airport!" do you think he would be arrested? Do you think any fucken moron in the audience wouldn't see it as part of a joke. CONTEXT. I don't know the context of this guy's post on Twitter, but I think it might be safe to say that this particular case could have used a little more fucken intelligent analysis...
  • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @09:05PM (#40150899)

    How can a threat to bomb an airport be considered as a joke?

    Isn't there some meme here about "nuking things from orbit just to be sure"...

    If we can routinely make posts advocating total annihilation by nuclear weapons and that can achieve meme status and no one here is even put off by it then I'm pretty sure a twitter threat to bomb an airport could be both sent and understood as a joke by a lot of people.

    Now the actual context:

    The message Chambers sent to his 600 followers in the early hours of 6 January said: "Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week... otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!"

    Now I don't use twitter but I could easily see myself saying something like that to my friends in jest.

    If I say I want to kill somebody, it's a threat, and should not be considered as "free speech" anymore.

    Because people should be criminalized for saying something like

    "I'm going to kill the neighbors kid next time she lets their dog shit on our driveway..."

    Lots of people say things like that all the time. Its not a threat. Its not serious. Everybody but a few uptight twats know there is no weight behind it.

    Zero Tolerance is Maximum Stupid.

  • by causality (777677) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @09:12PM (#40150943)

    How can a threat to bomb an airport be considered as a joke? Because of something called "context". If I go to a comedy club, and the comedian on-stage tells a joke and then says as the punchline, "And I'm going to blow up the airport!" do you think he would be arrested? Do you think any fucken moron in the audience wouldn't see it as part of a joke. CONTEXT. I don't know the context of this guy's post on Twitter, but I think it might be safe to say that this particular case could have used a little more fucken intelligent analysis...

    Yeah, I think yours is the kind of point that needs to be emphasized here. It seems there is no dispute that he was joking. The government is not trying to prove that he actually intended to bomb anything because they know he wasn't. That being the case, the arrest alone would have been more than enough to teach him a lesson he'll never forget.

    I just don't share or understand this desire to drag someone through the mud and nail him to the cross as hard as you can when there was no actual intent to do harm. This is a bean counter, not a hardened criminal mastermind who actually made bombs or showed any indication that he was going to. The guy did something extremely stupid and has already been punished enough. He's not going to do it again, so what purpose does it serve to prolong the affair?

    Just give him his appeal, let him go, wipe his record clean, maybe threaten him with the most severe punishment available if he ever does do it again, and be done with it. Let him go back to earning an honest living. Show him that the legal system does have a sense of proportion and justice, that way he's even less likely to ever become a hardened criminal.

    For the US there is a valuable lesson here. This is why you should eliminate with extreme prejudice any and all "zero tolerance" rules in the school systems. After a generation or two grows up thinking that this is normal, you wind up with obsessive enforcement of laws like this.

  • by causality (777677) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @09:19PM (#40151003)

    The problem, is that context can get lost, especially on twitter. What if someone else retweets it? And then their followers see it. Some of which have no idea of the context in which the original comment was made, and may have no idea who the person was who made the original comment.

    You see, that's why the police are supposed to investigate crimes prior to charges being filed.

  • by causality (777677) on Tuesday May 29, 2012 @09:25PM (#40151039)

    Did you read his twitter post? It was an obvious joke. No reasonable person could possibly interpret it as an actual threat. Most unreasonable people would even understand it was a joke.

    Let's say you are a government (that is, party leaders, financiers of campaigns, and other power brokers within that government). You know that it is politically difficult or impossible to pass law severly curtailing the existing level of free speech. You also know what a chilling effect is. You want to expand your power and make people more afraid of government.

    What do you do? You take laws that may have started out in a reasonable way. You then use them in an unreasonable way and make someone's life hellish when you know they don't really deserve it. What's the result? You set a precedent. Everyone else double-checks and carefully tiptoes around everything they want to say because they don't want to be next.

    Objective accomplished.

    I'll never understand this insatiable lust for more and more money and power, but then I am not an insecure fevered ego. Its machinations, however, are very easy to understand because they repeat over and over again throughout history (a subject that isn't properly taught anymore, at least not by the gov't sponsored schools, though you can remedy that for yourself with some reading.).

  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @12:08AM (#40151933)

    Well, lucky for the bulk of society, 99.999999999999% of the world's population is not the President of the United States.

    I don't think I've ever met a person who hasn't said they wanted to kill someone at some point. Obviously they don't actually mean they're going to kill someone. Hell, find me a parent who hasn't said they wanted to kill their kid(s) at some point. Good luck.

    People who can't make that distinction remind me a lot of those people that respond to obviously commiserative apologies with a "Why are you apologizing?" I mean, yes, obviously I didn't drive over to your house flatten your tire last night, I was saying I'm sorry that you woke up to a flat because that sucks. Fucking DURRRRRRRR.

    The difference is context, and most people with a functioning brain can tell whether a threat is real or not.

  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @12:16AM (#40151961)

    This reminds me a lot of another Twitter fiasco, where a couple were barred entry into the U.S. because of his tweets that he was going to 'destroy America' [dailymail.co.uk] ('Destroy' being British slang to get drunk and run amok, but no, they thought it was a literal threat).

    He also said they were going to dig up Marilyn Monroe and the fucking idiot immigration people actually searched their bags for shovels. Because they wouldn't buy one here in the states from one of the eight-fucking-million stores one can buy a shovel if they were actually going to do this...no, they'd bring one with them from England.

    We have a seriously disproportionate number of dumbshits in our police agencies, it seems.

  • by chilvence (1210312) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @02:23AM (#40152479)

    Is everyone in the justice system thick? Never mind whether the joke is funny or not, if you are actually going to bomb a public place, you don't announce your plan publicly on twitter using your personal fucking account because that would put you in the iq range of someone who has to ride the special bus and thus somewhat stunt your ability to organise acts of domestic terrorism.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @02:26AM (#40152495) Homepage

    We have a seriously disproportionate number of dumbshits in our police agencies, it seems.

    When it comes to government, I've learned to attribute malice over stupidity no matter how adequately it would explain it.

    Probably they knew perfectly well it wasn't meant literally. They just wanted to make a very public harrassment so other people might be sufficiently scared into censoring themselves.

  • by Dodgy G33za (1669772) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @03:32AM (#40152731)

    I disagree that he did anything "extremely stupid". Bungie jumping with a 10 m cable and a 5 metre drop would be extremely stupid. Posting a joky comment online is not. It is the authorities that are completely unreasonable here. What he did should not be a crime.

    As someone from the UK I shake my head in disbelief at the surveillance society that they have let themselves become, and hope like hell it an't contagious.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @04:39AM (#40152997)

    What I don't really understand is why we insist on Zero Tolerance for "jokes made on the internet" but not for failed banks.

  • by shilly (142940) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @08:04AM (#40153815)

    You're a tit, then. People are saying they feel sorry for you, not claiming they were the cause of your woes.

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