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UK Man Arrested For Offensive Joke Posted On Facebook 606

An anonymous reader writes "A tasteless joke posted on Facebook saw a man arrested in the UK under section 127 of the Communications Act, for sending a public electronic communication which is 'grossly offensive'. Matthew Wood, 20, of Eaves Lane, Chorley, UK will appear before Chorley Magistrates' Court on Monday."
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UK Man Arrested For Offensive Joke Posted On Facebook

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  • Re:context (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kraut ( 2788 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:39AM (#41582375)

    which would have been hard to miss for anyone in the UK, given the saturation coverage this has been receiving.

    Yeah, it's a sick joke. But being offensive shouldn't be a crime.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:41AM (#41582381)

    What's the difference from a Nanny-state with limited human rights and the UK?

    Trick question, there isn't any.

  • Re:context (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:43AM (#41582389)

    I'm not sure where I am on whether or not that should be a crime, but I would like to point out that April's parents probably had their guts turn inside out upon hearing that remark.

    If I were the one with the gavel, my first instinct would be to let him sweat the fear of jail for a few days then drop the case.

  • by kinarduk ( 734762 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:44AM (#41582393)
    So the first thing that happens with any tragedy is that people make jokes about it. It happened with 9/11, it happened with 7/7 it's happened throughout history. Some people use it as a form of therapy. It's part of our coping mechanism.
  • by Spad ( 470073 ) <> on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:46AM (#41582403) Homepage

    Yes, it's offensive and no, it's not particularly funny, but the police are starting to take the piss a little now with these charges.

    Saying things that people don't like should not be a crime with the exception of those that are explicitly inciting others to commit crimes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:49AM (#41582417)

    Well, I thought it was funny.

  • by nukenerd ( 172703 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:50AM (#41582425)

    So the first thing that happens with any tragedy is that people make jokes about it. ... Some people use it as a form of therapy. It's part of our coping mechanism.

    I fail to see why a 20 yo man in Lancashire, a couple of hundred miles away from the murder and unrelated to the victim, requires such therapy.

  • by MartinSchou ( 1360093 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:52AM (#41582429)

    I'm pretty sure I could find at least a hundred people, who will agree with me that public displays of religion is grossly offensive.

    Maybe even thousands.

    Which raises the question - would the UK police ever arrest a clergy member simply for public displayed religion, or is freedom of religion more important than freedom of speech?

  • by DrNoNo ( 976214 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:53AM (#41582431)

    It is totally lacking in taste, it is offensive, if the first post is accurate.

    The appropriate response would be to ignore it. However, in the modern UK, there is a demand to control too much of what people say and think. To me that is far more disturbing than the joke itself.

  • by Smauler ( 915644 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:54AM (#41582437)

    This goes to show how pointless prosecuting this guy is - the Streisand effect ensures that the law is worse than counterproductive, it's actively resulting in what the law was trying to do, which is prevent these kinds of jokes being made on the internet (which is a bit of a stupid fucking law, IMO). If I repeat it, will I be arrested too (yes I am a UK national)? If not, why not?

    Only one way to find out...

    What's the difference between Mark Bridger and Santa Claus? Mark Bridger comes in April.

  • Re:context (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eraesr ( 1629799 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @04:56AM (#41582451) Homepage
    Is it tasteless to make such a joke in front of that audience? Probably.
    Should the police and a judge be involved in something like this? No way.
    A simple moderation action by a Facebook employee (or even the page owner) could've dealt with it in a far better way. What's wrong with a little common sense?
    In fact, I hadn't heard of Mark Bridger or his case, but now I do and now I know about the joke. If a moderator would've simply removed the comment, then it wouldn't spread further. Now it does.
  • Re:context (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hattig ( 47930 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @05:12AM (#41582525) Journal

    Amazing how a little bit of extra information can change a story entirely, and it really does make me wonder why it was missed out of the linked articles and the summary. Oh - that would make it a non-story!

  • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @05:48AM (#41582691)

    If you were the father of this child, I'd say this could very easily insight terrible actions of violence.

    Incite. And so what? Telling a Muslim that Mohammed was not a prophet could very easily incite him to terrible actions of violence. Should that be forbidden? Making that the standard just means that if someone wants to suppress your speech, all they have to do is kill you, and say it was the fault of your nasty, inciting speech. Damn, what a deterrent.

    The standard the GP was referring to was actually encouraging violence - as in, a post that said something like "go and kill all the unbelievers", or, as in this case, "I want to kill Mark Bridger". Those statements should be investigated, and if it turns out they're credible as threats of violence, then punishment should be forthcoming. But banning anything that might make people mad? I think you've just violated the entire premise of free speech - if the only things you say don't make people mad, nobody's going to stop you saying them in the first place. It's entirely those forms of speech that make people mad that need protection.

  • by lattyware ( 934246 ) <> on Monday October 08, 2012 @05:49AM (#41582709) Homepage Journal

    Because who decides what is too offensive? The government? What if they decide telling a joke about the government is too offensive to them, ban you from doing that? What about if they decide jokes about euthenasia are too offensive? Ban those too?

    The government should not have the power to censor speech because it gives them too much power - they are already in a highly absuable position, we need to ensure we have a way to stand up and say something is wrong, otherwise the system collapses.

    Not being offended is not something anyone should have a right to. If someone wants to make a joke about someone's dead daughter, fine. It's that father's responsibility to be a mature adult and not attack them.

  • by robably ( 1044462 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @05:53AM (#41582729) Journal
    It's not counterproductive as they see it. They want you, the public, to know that if they want to get you they will get you. They are being bullies, not custodians of the law. They already got their intended chilling effect by making an example of this guy, and now everyone will be a little more nervous about what they post online - they don't need to prosecute you as well. But they might, and if a law is being applied selectively it should not be applied at all.
  • Re:Oh dear ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @06:01AM (#41582767)

    All of the twitter/facebook arrests lately have been totally absurd, and have achieved nothing other than wasting the tax payer's money. I thought the CPS had said that it wasn't going to pursue these sort of cases any more, but evidently I misread that.

    I can understand the police investigating direct personal attacks on twitter, but this is a joke - granted, some people may find it in poor taste, but it is the sort of thing you wouldn't be surprised to hear from comedians like Frankie Boyle. It's totally absurd that anyone would even report it to the police, let alone that they should take it this far.

  • Re:context (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zemran ( 3101 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @06:04AM (#41582781) Homepage Journal

    Then it would be the guy that reposted that caused harm, not the original poster...

  • by ReallyEvilCanine ( 991886 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @06:13AM (#41582839) Homepage
    > The UK has excellent freedom of expression. As the Clash wrote, "As long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it," a revelation which might pop your little two-volt cork. A little insight into what "incite" means (since you don't even know the difference between the two words): To incite someone isn't to simply make them angry or feel violent, it means to provoke them to taking violent and illegal action, such as rioting or killing. Making someone mad isn't "incitement" you buffoon. Likewise, the US Constitution explicitly makes the freedom of speech/thought/expression "inalienable".

    It's downright scary that same people who so bitterly complain about the saccharine superficiality world of the US are the same people who now defend a law which so stifles and criminalises speech that as it stands, even the conflict in an episode of Teletubbies or Zingzillas could have you arrested, defending yourself in court while facing years of imprisonment. All you have to do to find yourself in that position now is simply refuse to accept Islam when pressed (that's "grossly offensive" to a Muslim) or tell a dumb joke.

    It's such stupidity and grievous censorship of thoughts and ideas that tipped the balance in favour of staying in Germany rather than moving back to the UK.
  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @07:08AM (#41583133) Homepage

    I've sen just as bad taste jokes about dead celebs, shuttle astronauts and so on. Yes they're tasteless , no they're not funny, but since when did having a bad sense of uhmour become an arrestable offense?

    Get a sense of perspective and give it a rest with the think of the children routine.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @07:18AM (#41583179)

    How different is telling this joke to her father, to yelling fire in a theatre.

    In my country, if you yell "fire" in a non-burning theatre, you're not going to get into trouble for exercising freedom of expression, you're going to get into trouble for scaremongering and causing public danger. These are completely different law articles, mind you.

  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @07:30AM (#41583273)

    If you look at the Middle Ages we had a terrible problem with witchcraft. The way we handled that was using a lightweight and ad hoc system of roving prosecutors, ie Witchfinders General.

    Now we have a problem with paedophilia, exemplified by this joke. I think we need some sort of Paedofinder General.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 08, 2012 @08:08AM (#41583541)

    "If nothing else comes of it than everyone learning what a complete twat he is then the police action is fine by me."

    It turns out that he didn't post to the page dedicated to finding the girl. Someone copied the joke from his page. Now how do you feel about your little nazi hissy fit?

    The media and gov't are thriving on the ignorance and righteous indignation displayed by the populace in recent years, not just in the US but around the world. There's always been a tinge of this but in the last decade it's gotten out of hand.

    IMHO, it's about time that everyone sat the fuck down and got a clue. Take the time to get the facts then think about what's rational. Stop being force fed by Fox and Friends, Diane Sawyer and whatever godawful newspapers there are in the UK. It's never the complete picture because rarely does that coincide with their interests: turning a profit (sensationalism in media) or increasing control (new laws for gov't and their cronies).

  • by heathen_01 ( 1191043 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @08:45AM (#41583803)

    In real terms, the Queen has less power than a broken toaster. The true power lies in the Palace of Westminster and Whitehall.

    No, the true power lies with the people. Convincing the people to use that power is the tricky part...

  • Re:Oh dear ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScottyLad ( 44798 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @09:10AM (#41583991)

    This 'joke' was posted on the official 'Find April' Facebook wall, where local people & family were coordinating searches, not just on his own wall. That's why it's being prosecuted.

    Whilst I find the 'joke' to be far from funny, and posting it on the "Find April" page of Facebook in particularly poor taste, I am increasingly concerned by the enthusiasm with which the Crown Prosecution Service seek criminal convictions for posting bad taste jokes, or unpopular opinions, when these could be quickly and easily removed by the moderators of the forum in question.

    I'm not a Facebook user personally, but most online forums have some means of moderation in their online forums - I would be extremely surprised it wasn't possible to report the comment to Facebook, and have them take action against the user concerned (such as removing the comment and blocking their account).

    As someone else has commented, there are "comedians" who specialise in this kind of joke. Personally I don't find them funny, so I don't go to see them. Likewise, I know when I go on to an internet forum (even those of the broadsheet newspapers), I am likely to come acrosss offensive material (although I am more usually offended by the lack of originality and intellect than the comments themselves).

    A country where the State legislates to prevent people from being offended is only a small step from a country where the state legislates to prevent people from voicing politically unpopular opinions. As a UK citizen, one is increasingly concerned at the level of routine surveillance and intervention by the Authorities in day to day life.

  • Re:Oh dear ? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by shiftless ( 410350 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @09:15AM (#41584065) Homepage

    No, it's being prosecuted because Great Britain is ruled by fascists.

  • by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @09:19AM (#41584119)

    never happen, because we'd suddenly find ourselves short on police officers, social workers, nursery nurses and judges.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @09:37AM (#41584313) Homepage

    "Making a joke about an alledged murderer before the case has come to court or the body of his victim has even come to light yet? That's an extra special level of offense rarely seen these days, not to mention possibly prejudicial against the guy in the jury's mind in the upcoming trial "

    WTF are you talking about? So a lame joke is prejudicial and will influence a jury but all the salacious tabloid speculation won't??? Fsck, what kind of planet have people like you just arrived from?

  • Re:Oh dear ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @10:13AM (#41584727)
    If the hatred of poor taste trumps freedom of speech in your eyes, then I suggest you move to the middle east.

    People like you bring about the end of all freedom and the rise of all dictators.
  • Re:Oh dear ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tmosley ( 996283 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @10:15AM (#41584747)
    In America, this is quite fully allowed. See the Westboro Baptist Church. If you want to have freedoms, then you must defend the lowest of scoundrels. If just one of them falls down the slippery slope of authoritarianism, then we all follow.
  • by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @01:06PM (#41587301) Homepage
    This joke is incredibly, incredibly offensive, and and the maker deserves to be shunned by whomever chooses to shun him, but there's no way you could convince me that this should be an arrest-able offense.

    If he were a friend of mine, I'd have at least thought about lecturing him on the value of keeping some of one's thoughts to one's self. Depending on whether this sort of joke were some sort of indicator of a pattern in his thinking, I might even stop answering his calls. But as offensive as his joke is, it's not a crime.

    Now, if this guy had previous arrests for pedophilia, and if he was on some sort of a watch list, that'd be a different story altogether. If Hannibal Lecter were on work release and started making jokes on Facebook about eating his landlord's liver, well, I'd suggest that'd be enough to bring him on in again.
  • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Monday October 08, 2012 @02:01PM (#41588207) Journal

    If he were a friend of mine, I'd have at least thought about lecturing him on the value of keeping some of one's thoughts to one's self.

    If he was a friend of mine, I'd have laughed.

    Actually, reading the joke, I did.

    You want offensive? Try the Chancellor's speech at the Conservative Party Conference today. That was grossly offensive, but I don't see the police arresting him.

    Or are you trying to say that only some offensive speech should be protected?

The absent ones are always at fault.