I don't usually post about serious stuff, preferring to blog about fannish glee and my varied experiments in crafting. But this is really gnawing at my brain so I feel the need to share my thoughts.
So, you may have heard about the #TwitterJokeTrial
- a trial about a joke made on twitter, but also a joke of a trial that could have serious consequences for the British justice system and how we use the internet.
Long story short, earlier this year a guy posted this tweet:
Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!
And got himself arrested for "sending a menacing electronic communication" and fined over £3000. He lost his job, and yesterday, lost his appeal against his conviction. This is beyond ridiculous.This article
gives a much better account than I could manage of why this conviction is so very problematic (although every time he uses "English" I would have substituted "British") and this article
does a great job of breaking down why exactly that tweet is a joke (and I'd add - it has two exclamation points on the end. This is clearly internet-speak for "joking!!". He might as well have put !!11!eleventy or LOL at the end).
We don't have a legal protection for free speech in Britain, mainly because we thought we didn't need one. Speaking freely has always seemed like an enshrined British right. Certain newspapers *coughDailyMailcough* may start campaigns against things or people, but usually in an attempt to get them sacked for whatever "offensive" thing they have said, not have them prosecuted for it. We let deeply offensive, bigoted people go on Question Time
to defend their hateful views because we thought they had the right to say such things (and we the general public had the right to argue against them and call them Dick-sorry-Nick Griffin). But this ruling says that we don't have free speech in Britain, and that we can be prosecuted for things posted in spur of the moment anger.
But we're an angry bunch in Britain! (Well, maybe grumpy would be more apt.) Our language is full of hyperbolic, violent imagery which we use when frustrated, hungry, or stuck in queues or on hold for customer service.* And the internet is even more fair game for taking a fairly small amount of ire and posting about it in an extreme and over the top fashion.
Any reader of this journal may well have worked out that I adore hyperbole. It's usually used in a positive sense (I've lost count of how many things are the "best thing ever" to me) but I did recently attempt to torture the metaphysical concept of a week
. What if I'd threatened the people and buildings that had caused that grumpiness? Would I have been guilty of a criminal offense? It scares me to think that I may have to start considering the legal ramifications of venting my frustrations on the internet. Isn't that one of the things the internet is meant to be for?
If you're on twitter and are as angry as I am at this, then please join me
in the #IAmSpartacus
protest - and tweet (not retweet) these "clearly menacing" words with that hashtag. Let them try to prosecute all of us.* As a kid, when I was naughty, my father would threaten to rip off my arms and beat me to death with the soggy bit. Even at the age of seven I understood that this was a joke and not a genuine threat, making me then smarter than our judiciary now, apparantly.
ETA: A helpful round up of the whole shebang here
. And a very good article on the precedent this is settinghere