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Censorship Government United Kingdom Your Rights Online

In UK, Twitter, Facebook Rants Land Some In Jail 233

Posted by timothy
from the greater-good dept.
concealment writes with this excerpt from an Associated Press story, as carried by the Houston Chronicle:"In Britain, hundreds of people are prosecuted each year for posts, tweets, texts and emails deemed menacing, indecent, offensive or obscene, and the number is growing as our online lives expand. 'Fifty years ago someone would have made a really offensive comment in a public space and it would have been heard by relatively few people,' said Mike Harris of free-speech group Index on Censorship. People take it upon themselves to report this offensive material to police, and suddenly you've got the criminalization of offensive speech. Figures obtained by The Associated Press through a freedom of information request show a steadily rising tally of prosecutions in Britain for electronic communications — phone calls, emails and social media posts — that are grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character — from 1,263 in 2009 to 1,843 in 2011. Justice Igor Judge said in his judgment that the law should not prevent 'satirical or iconoclastic or rude comment, the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, banter or humor, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it.'"
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In UK, Twitter, Facebook Rants Land Some In Jail

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @11:49AM (#41992703)

    ... because if they aren't they get locked up....

  • "Offensice speech" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @11:51AM (#41992721) Journal

    Turns out it was a slippery slope after all!

    who knew, eh?

    (apart from everyone who pointed it out)

  • Re:FUCK BRITS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arisvega (1414195) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @11:59AM (#41992821)

    Stay cool, no need to troll like this: the message here, I believe, is "don't even think for a second that internet makes you anonymous: we (the authorities) can and will find you, and make this public as a warning to everybody else".

    This is not about the Brits, this is happening all over the world. It is just that in the UK they seem to be a tad more diligent in enforcing the "nobody gets away with it" regime --remember how some rioters that were caught on camera were eventually tracked months later and -perhaps disproportionally- [guardian.co.uk] punished a while back.

  • Re:So far (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Psyborgue (699890) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:10PM (#41992947) Homepage Journal
    A genuine opinion can also be deliberately obnoxious. Who the fuck gets to choose which is which, anyway, and therein lies the problem. All restrictions on speech do is maintain the status quo and ensure that what is now considered "offensive" will always remain so.
  • by benjfowler (239527) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:10PM (#41992963)

    If offensive speech and behaviour got everyone into trouble, then Anjem Choudhury and his mob would all be in jail.

    Strangely enough, this hasn't happened... In Britain, you can only be racist, bigoted or offensive if you're white. Brown people get a free pass.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:16PM (#41993003)

    I lost count of how many times I should've gone to jail for something I said in 4chan.

    How may times SHOULD you have gone to jail for saying something: 0.

  • Re:FUCK BRITS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:17PM (#41993015) Journal

    ...this is happening all over the world.

    Yes, but the US is special:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

  • by simoroth (2766069) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:27PM (#41993101)
    Two of the examples given were blatant miscarriages of the legal system and we should all be concerned about them. However the vast majority of these messages are not be protected under free speech. If someone sends death threats, racially abuses someone etc then I am entirely happy for them to be prosecuted. Calm down a bit and have some perspective.
  • by saibot834 (1061528) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:41PM (#41993273) Homepage

    In the UK you can get arrested for all kinds of things you say: Calling a police horse gay, for example. If someone feels like something you say could insult [wikipedia.org] someone, you get arrested. Now, not all of these (ludicrous) charges are successful, but still I think there already is a bad chilling effect.

    Listen to Rowan Atkinson's (Mr. Bean) [youtube.com] excellent 10 Minutes speech on the topic and why he is part of the campaign "Feel free to insult me".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:52PM (#41993373)

    I'm sure if we sample the most crime-ridden portions of each of our countries we'll find lots of people with bad teeth.
    Living in a nice middle class neighborhood, all the kids have braces or straight teeth and an adult with yellowed teeth is called a "smoker."

    As for American Beer, try our microbrews, not the Pepsi-subtitutes from BevCo. As for complicated recipes for turning cheap ingredients into tasty ones? Try a prize winning Peach Pie in Georgia. For good food in the Pacific NorthDamp, we eat fresh fish and good steak we import from the Mid-West. Applying the "not invented here" standard to your food will make for a pretty lousy diet in any country.

    It's not paradise, but tooth decay and crappy food are conscious choices here, not the only options.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:07PM (#41993569)

    It is basic human nature to try and stop people from doing whatever it is that they don't like.

    The notion that we should respect the freedom of others, as noble as it is, goes against the path-of-least-resistance of human cognition.

    So, even in countries that value freedom, you have large groups of the populace that strive to take it away from each other.

    Eternal vigilance, and all that.

  • Re:FUCK BRITS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:15PM (#41993637)

    ...this is happening all over the world.

    Yes, but the US used to be special:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    They have made such a law. Read about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_act [wikipedia.org]

  • by Guru80 (1579277) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:46PM (#41994023)

    Funny how the people that tend to do the reporting also tend to do and say things just as bad, if not worse, than they report. I'm all for lining them up and smacking some sense into them. Wait is that menacing?

    I've been on the receiving end of that when I worked in retail. I was reported to my boss by an elderly lady, and she actually called the cops, because of a comment she says she overheard me telling another employee as she is cussing me out and threatening me in all kinds of hilariously awkward ways and the minute the cop arrives she is the grandma next door all the kids in the neighborhood love as their own grandma. Of course nothing came of it as I don't even know what in the hell she was talking about.

    When it comes to non-violent protests and speaking your mind, I'm all for it. Talk is just talk and if someone wants to burn a flag or a book, so freaking what? Have at it. The slope gets slippery as you near the point between free speech and illegal or violent actions but we shouldn't be moving it further into free speech territory thus removing rights and freedoms, making mere words or personal actions illegal when they cause no real harm to another except offending your holier than thou morality.

  • by Githaron (2462596) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:05PM (#41994321)

    Anonymity and the internet do get the worst out of us.

    Anonymity can also bring out the best in us when there is reason to fear bringing out such parts otherwise.

  • Re:FUCK BRITS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@NOSpAM.uberm00.net> on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:56PM (#41994985) Homepage Journal

    I find more and more that if the word "morals" is present in any law or constitution that it can be translated to mean "except when we don't want to."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @09:08PM (#41998121)

    I shouldn't have to re-iterate that old mantra of "not all free speech is free!", and you may disagree on the law on some points like what "racial hatred" is exactly. But if you don't like what someone said and send them a message saying you will find and murder them - do you honestly believe that you shouldn't go to jail? Threats of murder get you jail time, whether it's done in person, over the phone, or over the internet - despite being "just something you said".

    I have no issues with what you say here, menacing/threatening messages are something which rightly should be actionable, but, unfortunately, I think you're missing the scope of the legislation in the UK which was designed to deal with these eventualities, and how it's being (ab)used.

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/section/127

    Now, here's the problem, the act, as worded, places no emphasis on the intent of the content, just on its nature.

    Say person X posts something 'objectionable' on something as public as Twatter/whatever, rightly or wrongly, this act gives the police a ready reason to arrest them and charge them, as maybe someone, somewhere who looks at it will be offended by the content of the post. (I'm not even going to get into the minefield that is 'what constitutes grossly offensive. indecent or obscene')

    However, Say person X sends person Y an 'off colour' joke (beit racist, sexist, sick, name-your-poison) via email or SMS message, under the terms of this act, even if both persons X and Y have no 'issues' with this joke, the mere fact that someone, somewhere may find it '..grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character..' is enough to make it an offence under this act based on the content, despite the intent of the communication being to make person Y laugh.

    So, ok, someone sends you a sick/racist joke via SMS, fast forward a couple of months, you're arrested for whatever, the police go through your phone, find said joke, now the person who sent you the joke may expect a visit from our boys in blue and a subsequent prosecution under the terms of this act (I say may, as they're very capricious that way.)

    I'll keep the focus on the transmission of jokes here for two reasons;
      i. I know someone who almost fell afoul of this act for receiving a racist joke via the company email. The police were about to be involved by the management until I pointed out that the act covered the sending only, the email did not originate from this person, or even from within the company, eventually they only received an (undeserved) formal warning at work. (Fun fact, I was about to appear as a witness at the tribunal for this person, and was going to gleefully point out that by allowing the email to pass through their filters and actually end up in the person's inbox even though their monitoring software had flagged the content as racist and warned the admin, the company was technically guilty under Section 127(1)(b) of the Communications Act 2003)
      ii. Humour, being very subjective, is where this act has the potential of being most abused.

    Now, I'll laugh at a wide range of things and I do have a rather 'sick' sense of humour, and here's my major concern. This act means, within the scope of any electronic communication, my sense of humour is now the purview of the Legal system.

    In Britain, finding the wrong thing funny is now a potential crime.
     

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