Every day we seem to get some Twitter related news regarding silly or irresponsible things someone has said. It’s also attracted a lot of attention from those who support and enjoy free speech, which is a whole lot of people.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the case of Paul Chambers who tweeted: “Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your s*** together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!” This tweet was posted during a snowstorm in 2010, and shortly afterwards he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and charged before being found guilty. The case sparked interest from the likes of Stephen Fry and many more in Paul’s favor, recently the conviction was challenged and was quashed. Even comedian Al Murray declared a victory for free speech. However, Paul did lose his job after the incident and is still unemployed.
Only yesterday we saw another Twitter related arrest as a teenager hit out at Olympic swimming hopeful Tom Daley, who was left agitated after a tweeter left him the message: “You let your dad down I hope you know that” after the swimmer fell short of a bronze medal with fourth place. Tom Daley’s father died at the age of 40 just last year. It is believed that the unnamed teenager persisted to send menacing messages containing threats before apologising, however he was arrested promptly in the early hours of Tuesday morning on suspicion of malicious communications. While the teenager is clearly in the wrong, does a menacing tweet warrant an arrest and potential criminal record?
For me there is a fine line between free speech and hate speech, it can be hard to distinguish. In Paul’s case I think that while his tweet probably wasn’t the greatest move and not the funniest joke in the world, it was clear that it was a moment of madness. The fact that one poor tweet has brought down his life is actually a joke in itself.
In the case of Tom Daley’s abuser, I think he was certainly in the wrong and probably wasn’t expecting to even be noticed, never mind arrested. It could only be an attempt to gain some kind of attention but again, we all have moments of madness. We all seek attention and lash out at some point in our lives at someone or something. I think we all need to adjust common sense around social media and not totally separate it from real life. Jokes and sarcasm can, at times, be hard to communicate on the internet!
Like real life, the online world has its problems and with so many people online there is bound to be incidents. The question remains is it the job of the police to enforce and moderate Twitter or those at the website? I believe it’s the latter.