Last week, a young man from England, Paul J. Chambers, was convicted for sending a menacing message on a public communications medium for tweeting a seemingly-obvious hyperbolic threat on Twitter with context to an airport. What was a joke to him turned into a much larger free speech incident. NYTimes has more on this.
Days later, an airport employee spotted the tweet and eventually five police officers confronted Chambers and seized his computers and phones. Even after pleading his side of the case, the judge wasn’t convinced to overturn the ruling.
I don’t know much about how England operates its courts, but it sounds eerily similar to our courts. And by similar, I mean anyone with judicial power is inept and technophobes.
I don’t know what caused more of a menace – the tweet or the excessive reaction to it – giving widespread attention to the matter. Let’s keep in mind; this took place over a few DAYS to see his frustrated tweet from inside the airport. Even then, DAYS after it was spotted, police confronted him. If he was even half-serious about carrying this out, it would have been done.
This isn’t the way anti-terrorist laws work. This isn’t functional, effective or relevant. I get it – the undying need to find criminals among the people – but this isn’t the way it’s supposed to work. If he posed even a mild threat, would he really be appealing his conviction? Would he have golf clubs in his trunk?
No matter how upset or frustrated you might be, don’t vent about it on Twitter. Don’t get creative or witty and say you intend to blow anything up. You never know when a moron will read it and send the feds after you.
Tweeting is serious business. Don’t discount the medium anymore. People are losing their rights over this.