Twitter and Blogging- a dangerous place to play

>>  Sunday, February 12, 2012

I use twitter, I know many of you do too.  I use it for work, so many experts in one place ready to help.  I use it to talk to like minded people whether I feel like an IT professional, a mum or FML moan.

You may be aware of the Twitter Joke Trial.  Paul Chambers is currently in the Royal Courts of Justice probably about to depend on Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights for saying:

"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!!"
I don't think it should have ever got this far but to be honest I think it's a bit like mentioning the word bomb in an airport, no matter how gun-ho you are feeling you just don't do it.  So this doesn't really affect us does it, because we aren't that stupid.


I know I am capable of having a conversation similar to this:
" free this week for a quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?"
 "3 weeks today, we're totally in LA pissing people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin' Marilyn Monroe up!"
It was held between a girl and boyfriend about to go on holiday to America.  We know they would be messing around.  They were picked up by the American National Security Forces at the airport, questioned for 5 hours, held in cells for 12 hours and sent home.  Yes, they are scanning your tweets.  No, they don't understand 'a joke'.

Today's news:  "Hamza Kashgari fled to Malaysia after calls for death penalty in response to Twitter comment about Muhammad".  His tweet:
 "I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don't understand about you. I will not pray for you."
He deleted his tweet, he apologised for his tweet...all is not forgiven.

I think it is time we were all very aware, Twitter is not the equivalent of pub banter where things are said in jest and not taken seriously.

How many times have you sent out a fed up tweet because there was a tube strike, the bus was late, the train ticket office was shut, your OH was late home.  This is possible:
"digging under patio now to put OH in when he finally staggers home"
Doesn't seem something to be taken too seriously at 11:30pm between Twitter friends on a Saturday night does it? It's not actually said to OH.

But that context doesn't matter, go back to Paul Chamber's tweet....there is no @, he didn't actually say it to the airport directly, he was simply having a joke.  He was arrested by 5 policemen at work and taken for questioning under the Terrorism Act.  He lost his job, his life will never be the same again.  One tweet.  He was fed up because his flight was cancelled.

What this all boils down to is that our tweets and blog fall under the Communications Act 2003.  Since 2003 it's covered more than phones.  Now it includes  'sends by means of a public electronic communications network'....that's your blog, twitter, facebook et al.   What you can't do is send a message that is grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing character contrary to Section 1271(A) and (3) of the act.

Now remember, context here means nothing and your tweets are being watched.  Yes, it's probably unlikely you're going to be 'unlucky' and get picked up, but as we've seen, it is happening to people.

Should the law change? Any changes need to be made very carefully. If I was the person on the end of death threats on my Facebook page, I'm not sure the response "well, it's not against the law, people have the right to say anything they want" would cheer me.

It is probably time to take stock and realise that the world we thought we lived in has changed and you do have to be careful of what you are saying not just who you say it to.

If you are interested to read about this further some good places to start are:

Problem is the law don't do Funny
Twitter Jokes about Destroying America
Malaysia Deports Saudi Journalist
JackofKent Blog (Paul Chamber's Lawyer)

Interesting Podcast on the Leveson inquiry (this affects blogging too) and the Twitter joke trial 


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