It’s a well known fact that Twitter is the place where terrorists the world over announce their intentions to commit another outrage. Well isn’t it?
Errrr actually no it’s not.
It is, instead, a place where millions of people the world over empty their heads by sharing thoughts that can sometimes be outrageous and stupid. It is not known for being a place of enormous intellect. It is communication in its simplest form – however irritating it can sometimes seem.
Unfortunately, no-one had told the officers of the South Yorkshire Police, who arrested a 26 year old man for tweeting, in total frustration at the effect the bad weather was having on his travel plans: “Robin Hood airport is closed,” continuing “You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”
A week after posting the comment, Paul Chambers was arrested at his place of work under the Terrorism Act and questioned for seven hours, before being released on bail.
He said “I would never have thought, in a thousand years, that any of this would have happened because of a Twitter post,” and “I’m the most mild-mannered guy you could imagine.”
He has since been suspended from his work, pending an internal enquiry and banned from Robin Hood Airport, in Doncaster, for life.
An expert on privacy laws and free speech, Tessa Mayes commented:
“Making jokes about terrorism is considered a thought crime, mistakenly seen as a real act of harm or intention to commit harm.
“The police’s actions seem laughable and suggest desperation in their efforts to combat terrorism, yet they have serious repercussions for all of us. In a democracy, our right to say what we please to each other should be non-negotiable, even on Twitter.”
Of course she is right.
No-one would ever dispute that we should take the threat of terrorism seriously but if we are to live in fear of being arrested everytime we make a misjudged comment or an attempt at a joke, then the terrorists have already won the war.
The police, of all people, should know the difference between a genuine threat and what is obviously nothing more than a foolish declaration of frustration.
Be careful what you say or you could find your self being apprehended by a right bunch of tweets!