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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 @12:49PM (#41992703)

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

    • ...Twitter unfollows you.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • by History's Coming To (1059484) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @04:06PM (#41995115) Journal
      Nope, we just invented manners, it's very different.

      For those who don't know, here's the actual situation in the UK:

      The courts generally consider internet posts in the same way they do traditional journalism, you can say what you want as long as it isn't libelous, incitement to commit a crime, or "grossly offensive". Bloggers and Tweeters etc are generally given more leeway and lower fines/sentences than traditional journalists on the grounds that, while ignorance is no excuse, "proper" journalists should very certainly know better. There is no written constitution as such in the UK, and therefore no official right to free speech, but it is generally accepted that the really important free speech, such as speaking out against the government, is protected, and European legislation does provide some protection which UK law omits entirely.

      The big problem is the highly subjective "grossly offensive" element mentioned above. The interpretation of this is very much down to the opinion of the judge and/or jury overseeing the case. In my opinion they've been overly touchy about this - after all, you can shout at somebody in a pub that you are going to kill them and chances are the worst you'll see is the inside of a cell for 12hrs and a drunk and disorderly charge.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        What surprises me is that people have not cottoned on to the need to post anonymously. The person who broke many super-injunctions on Twitter managed to do it, probably via Tor but maybe even via a proxy or open wifi.

      • by Skapare (16644)

        They need to define this in the laws and stop letting people that wear funny wigs decide.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      discussing with a friend from england one day we talked about differences similar to this one. And at one point he said something along the lines of "and that is precisely the difference. You are an American citizen, I am a British -subject-."

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

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:51PM (#41992721) Journal

    Turns out it was a slippery slope after all!

    who knew, eh?

    (apart from everyone who pointed it out)

  • by CQDX (2720013) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:52PM (#41992739)
    Big Brother is watching...
  • Most if not all were being deliberately obnoxious rather than just voicing a genuine opinion.
    • Re:So far (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Psyborgue (699890) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:10PM (#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.
      • Most if not all were being deliberately obnoxious rather than just voicing a genuine opinion.

        A genuine opinion can also be deliberately obnoxious.

        Besides, there a place for stuff like that: 4chan ... (especially /b/ - yikes!)

        • by Psyborgue (699890)
          You don't think the same folks who will try to regulate speech in meatspace would try and do the same online?
          • You don't think the same folks who will try to regulate speech in meatspace would try and do the same online?

            Sure, intolerance comes in baby steps. (And, I totally agree with your original post.)

            Personally, I believe there's a time and place for all kind of speech, but I try to be mindful of my audience and speak appropriately. Rude and crude is not always appropriate or, more importantly, necessary, but some times it is either and/or both. As George Carlin said (perhaps paraphrasing), "There are no dirty words. Dirty thoughts and intentions, but no dirty words." So, people need to just grow the fuck up - abo

    • Then I think it's about time people toughen up rather than try to censor others' speech.

  • Too bad (Score:5, Funny)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:03PM (#41992875) Journal
    If they're going to round up people, I wish they'd round up youtube commenters. Those idiots need some help and re-education.
    • by aicrules (819392)
      Except then we wouldn't have those hilarious youtube videos where youtube "stars" read those comments how they think they would sound if they had been spoken instead of typed. Comedic gold. Well..some of them anyway.
    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by Psyborgue (699890)
      Really? I think we should round up all the commenters on the Daily Kos, not necessarily for re-education, but rather for a good ol-fashioned hippie beat-down. I think they're offensive and therefore by your logic I should be able to violate their liberty. Why not?
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by phantomfive (622387)
        Typical comment from Daily Kos: "I wonder what circle of Hell Breitbart's in now. He wasn't influential enough to be in the 9th circle. The bottom rung is reserved for Lords. He's probably in the 7th with the whores."

        Typical comment from Youtube: "FUCK THE PRICESSES THE HORSE IS DIED!"

        I only mention the youtube comment there because it got 72 thumbs up. Certainly Dailykos is an echo chamber for people of a certain political persuasion to visit and feel good talking to people who agree with them. That
    • Re:Too bad (Score:4, Funny)

      by houghi (78078) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:39PM (#41993251)

      You know what they say:
      First they came for the youtube commenters ...

      • Re:Too bad (Score:5, Funny)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:44PM (#41993311) Journal

        First they came for the youtube commenters

        And I helped because it made the world a better place? :)

      • You know what they say: First they came for the youtube commenters ...

        ... Then they uploaded their videos ... [youtube.com]

      • You know what they say:

        First they came for the youtube commenters ...

        ... and I was not a Youtube commenter, so I did not speak out.

        Then they came for the spammers, and I was not a spammer, so I did not speak out.

        Then they came for the advertising trolls on blogs and internet forums, and I was not an advertising troll, so I did not speak out.

        And when they came for me, they saw I had excellent Slashdot karma, and they went to find somebody else...

        Meanwhile, I rejoiced as I finally turned my calendar from September to October after all of these years....

    • If they're going to round up people, I wish they'd round up youtube commenters.

      Hell yes. Hey, don't stop there! Head on over to the local pub and arrest those morons for ranting about shit too! Hell, let's use surveillance on everyone all the time so that everything they say can be censored if we find it offensive, or in appropriate. Look, we don't have to screen in real time, we can just pick someone we don't like, pull up their Speakings and find something to arrest them for...

      At the dawn of The Age of Information humans struggled with the transition to persistent digital comm

  • pacifying the mob (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Azarman (1730212) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:10PM (#41992959)
    Its 2 faced and all about pacifying the mob, the UK is starting to get very mob like, witch hunts for pedos, people stoning MPs, people in the UK are very unhappy lately but we are not allowed to come out and say it in case we offend someone and have to spend a night in jail.

    A direct Example of the 2 facedness of the system here: check out Franky Boyles Twitter, the stuff that comes out on there is generally very offensive (I love you Boyle!! regardless of what i say here), yet he is not in jail. Yet we see the poppy burner, the guy that said mean things about someones dead dad, and a few others all in get arrested. The mob wants them to pay, and the police then back up the mob, such a bad precedent but too late now.

    Another reason for the police jumping on this is that they are trying to look like they are not just there to collect speeding tickets and rounding up pot dealers so they have deciced to start a new war on socail media, hell the war on drugs was a good spinner maybe this is will be equally good. I dont want to sound completely negative, but where i live the police are not that well liked, in context it took 8 police offices to remove a man from a swimming pool for swearing at some teenage kids that were splashing him,

    In closing my understand with UK law is that if you piss off someone powerfull enough the way the UK law is structured means they will always have something on you. I think thats the goal of the system to make sure they have something on everyone and then keep everyone in their places and no one gets above their station.

    iMe
    • by swb (14022)

      I think thats the goal of the system to make sure they have something on everyone and then keep everyone in their places and no one gets above their station.

      I think that's both the unintended consequence AND the desired state of affairs for the cops.

      It's an unintended consequence of there being too many laws -- we tend to outlaw the same kinds of things, over and over in different ways, and at least in the US, at different levels of government, too. Not even freedom from double-jeapordy can help, as you ca

      • by Synerg1y (2169962)
        Yep, cops are people too, the problem I think is how they're trained, they're trained to exert power over their precinct, but not in the responsibility it entails. Then again you see a lot of cops go the other way catching a bullet, or a discharge, so there is a lot of tension there to begin with. To enact power over people, you have to have leadership qualities to be effective, I think this is where the cops & robbers system starts to fall apart, but... it's better than the alternative and most leade
    • Its 2 faced and all about pacifying the mob, the UK is starting to get very mob like, witch hunts for pedos, people stoning MPs, people in the UK are very unhappy lately but we are not allowed to come out and say it in case we offend someone and have to spend a night in jail.

      It seems to me this is the underlying problem.

      We can demand absolute free speech on the internet, but it won't help if people are very unhappy. It's doubly not going to help if there's a mob which waits for someone to be offensive, and

  • He's being mean to me!
    *sigh*

  • by benjfowler (239527) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:10PM (#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 Psyborgue (699890)
      It has nothing to do with race, rather the fear of upsetting the more religious Muslims. Please. There is a difference and it's not at all a subtle one. This is why people think organizations like the EDL are racist. Many of the members seem to have trouble distinguishing a religion from a race. I know it's sometimes difficult, but not all brown people, not even all arabs, are Muslims and not even all Muslims take their religion seriously (there are a whole bunch who are simply too scared to leave or o
    • Why do you think that is? Suppose you get the job to head the subcommittee to look into offensive speech on the internet. You might think it should be a free-for-all, but hey, it's a pretty sweet assignment for an up and coming bureaucrat so you accept. Then you recruit a few cronies and set to work. You're all for free speech, but what do you know, so you schedule meetings with a few other committees. And there are committees for everything and everyone these days, all too eager to tell you how public
    • by fredrated (639554)

      ... In Britain, you can only be racist, bigoted or offensive if you're white. Brown people get a free pass.

      Your statement makes no sense. 'You can be racist if you're white' and 'Brown people get a free pass' mean the same thing, twit!

  • by simoroth (2766069) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:27PM (#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 cayenne8 (626475)

      If someone sends death threats, racially abuses someone...

      Ok, I can understand death threats...that is illegal, but what, pray tell, is racial abuse?

      I mean, sure it might hurt someone's feeling to call them a stupid polack (sp?), gibbering chink, damned gook, or a fucking nigger....it isn't nice to say, or politically correct.

      But, other than hurt someones feelings and self esteem....it isn't causing injury to anyone or threating their lives..?

      Sure, it is distasteful speech, but should be free speech no

  • Everywhere in the world you can get investigated, charged and arrested for saying something stupid. The Brits don't have a monopoly on that.

    • Saying something stupid is not a crime. The simple fact that you are not telling the truth does not constitute a crime, nor does your ignorance in making false statements.

      What you were probably referring to is saying something offensive or insulting. I think you're right insofar as free speech is indeed under attack in a lot of countries, but that should be all the more reason to defend it. It has been proven numerous times that in practice it is impossible to outlaw insulting statements without harming fre

      • by mseeger (40923)

        Try to say "I hope you'll dont find the bomb" while being patted down by the TSA. That will get you in handcuffs faster than you can say "free speech".

        That's stupid, but neither insulting or offensive.

        There ain't such thing as total freedom as long as you share this galaxy with others.

        Boundaries are being checked and moved every day.

        Currently they are moving the wrong way (in UK and elsewhere). We have to hold against it. But don't live under the assumption, there ever will be no boundaries.

  • by saibot834 (1061528) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:41PM (#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".

    • Mod parent up +insightful

      That is a *brilliant* speech on the idiocracy of Political Correctness!

  • Poppy Burning (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:41PM (#41993277)

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cartoon/2012/nov/13/remembrance-day-burning-poppy-cartoon

  • by pla (258480) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:07PM (#41993561) Journal
    Now I'm gonna tell ya a story, a tale of wrong and right; and freedom is the reason you can't take it without a fight.
    So now I'm startin' up a posse (suck my dick, suck my dick) to come and look for you; we're gonna put a stop to what you want to do.
    You fucking whores (you fuckin' whores), that's all you are!

    You say our records are offensive (you're a douche, you're a douche), our messages ain't right, you say "We're gonna label records so our kids can grow up right".
    You fucking whores (let them decide), that's all you are!

    "Shit, fuck, Satan, death, sex, drugs, rape", these seven words you're trying to take.
    "Shit, fuck, Satan, death, sex, drugs, rape", right or wrong it's our choice to make.
    America the beautiful, land of the free - Don't change the words to land of hypocrisy!

    Now I'm startin' up a posse (fascist scum, fascist scum) and we'll damn sure make you see, something that offends you may not be offensive to me.
    You fucking whores (you fuckin' whores) That's all you are!

    Now you might take offense to a word like "fuck" or "shit" (dick!); but you fuckin' don't have the right (cunt!) to discriminate me for saying it!
    You fuckin' whores (you fuckin' whores), that's all you are!

    So now I'm startin' up a posse (motherfucker, motherfucker) to fight for freedom of choice, to fight for freedom of speech, we're gonna make you hear our voice.
    And now I don't do this to shock you (that's the end, that's the end), I don't do this for spite; you've got the choice, don't buy it, don't read it, and don't say your opinion's right
    You fucking whores (you fuckin' whores), that's all you are (cunty, cunty, cunty, cunt)!

    You know you can't censor my feelings, you can't censor my thoughts. Censorship's against everything America stands for.
    You fuckin' whores (let us decide), that's all you are (and this ain't sexist, either)!
  • by kheldan (1460303) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:15PM (#41993641) Journal
    If anything is going to utterly destroy the Internet, it's going to be censorship, because once you open the door to censoring one type of speech, you start an avalanche of censoring all types of speech. It's like bigotry and racism: Once you cross that line and devalue one group of class of people, you can devalue any group or class of people. Before too long the only way to avoid eventual prosecution would be to stay off the Internet completely.
  • According to Wikipedia
    "However there is a broad sweep of exceptions including threatening, abusive, or insulting speech or behavior likely to cause a breach of the peace (which has been used to prohibit racist speech targeted at individuals),[63][64] incitement,[65] incitement to racial hatred,[66] incitement to religious hatred, incitement to terrorism including encouragement of terrorism and dissemination of terrorist publications,[65][67] glorifying terrorism,[68][69] collection or possession of informat

  • by Guru80 (1579277) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:46PM (#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.

  • '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

    Fifty years ago would be 1962.

    Radio and television broadcasters have been operating on a national and international scale since the 1920s. Newspapers and magazines since the invention of the telegraph.

    Each had to come to terms with legal and ethical restraints on what could be published in an age of instant mass communication.

  • This has NOT hit UK mainstream media. Over here they're more concerned about who's first to get kicked out of the studio camp in I'm A Celebrity...

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Not surprised. This type of stuff didn't really hit the mainstream press in Canada until Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn among others were trotted before the CHRC(canadian human rights commission) for "offending the sensibilities of muslims" for publishing the mohammad cartoons. In the end, it led to the HRC being disgraced and S.13 of the HRC being revoked by the government of Canada. Though provincial kangaroo courts still exist.

  • Political Correctness coming back to bite you

  • ... by those funny curly white wigs they wear.

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