twitter joke trial


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Boxing Legend Muhammad Ali was arrested today by the CPS who quoted his ‘confession’ in 1974 that just last week, he’d “murdered a rock, Injured a stone, Hospitalized a brick” claiming malicious intent in that message, which had been broadcast on television.

In the statement given by Ali on his arrest, there was a definite rumble in his mumbles…

Right now, in the UK, a man is being tried as a terrorist...for making a joke on twitter

I am currently following the #twitterjoketrial tag on twitter and weeping for common sense. It seems it’s so rare nowadays it’s almost nonexistant.

The tweet in question came from Paul Chambers, who tweeted in anger at his flight being delayed due to snow “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!” Now, the tweet may not have been the funniest joke in the world, but it is obvious that it is a joke. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t do humour and is wasting taxpayer’s money on actually trialing this man as an actual terrorist.

Now, any person with a single ounce of common sense could figure out that this was not a serious tweet. Any self respecting terrorist knows that you don’t publicly announce your intentions on the internet where thousands of people can see it. I know that (and no, I’m not a terrorist in case anyone’s wondering). I myself have made tweets that, taken out of context can seem pretty ‘menacing’, but the people who follow me know that I am generally a good hearted person with tongue-firmly-in-cheek sense of humour. 

Although I agree with some that making jokes about terrorism isn’t particularly a good thing to do, there is a difference between being offended and not finding something funny. If someone makes a joke I don’t find particularly rib-tickling, I ignore it. You don’t see me calling the police over oveay exploding jokes, even though I don’t find them as amusing as other people do, seeing as I’ve experienced a real life near ovary explosion drama and it wasn’t in the least bit giggle inducing. Sense of humour is different for all people, and trying to make everyone only approve of one type of humour will never work. Comedians often rely on social taboos and stereotypes to get laughs, because everybody can relate to their jokes.  Unfortunately, the law doesn’t understand this, and with the Olympics fast approaching, it’s understandable to be jumpy about the risk of terrorism.

But that isn’t the point. The point is that a totally innocent, non serious tweet has gotten a totally innocent man into a totally serious problem. Because of his questionable quip, he’s lost his job and found himself at the centre of a media storm, fighting in court for his innocence as a non-terrorist, perfectly safe Briton. The tweet earned him a conviction (yes, an actual conviction) under the 'Communications Act of 2003’ for ’sending a public electronic message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character’

The issue with this is the plain fact that those in charge of the law most likely do not really understand social networking and how it works. The internet is not simply a tool, to people like us it’s something much more. It’s been part of our lives since we were young and it’s developed alongside us. The problem is there are so many users out there who may be actually of a malicious intent (think identity fraudsters and bank account hackers and hey, maybe there are a few terrorists out there) and it’s difficult to tease out the innocent from the guilty. The thing is, up to 4000 people have since re-tweeted Paul’s joke since it originated, many of them to take a stand against this absurd trial. Does that make all of them Terrorists too? What about the recent twitter overtake of #hiddlestonsarmy? Are all the perpetrators of those tweets going to have their houses searched for assault rifles and hand grenades?

Luckily for Paul, he has a growing number of supporters for his innocence, including the likes of Stephen Fry and Al Murray. I myself am supporting his plea for innocence, and like a lot of his supporters, am growing more and more worried for the future of humour and the increase of stupid people in society who just don’t get it.