Two years ago, we reported on the story about a UK man who was arrested on terrorism charges after posting a joke tweet on Twitter. Travel chaos caused by heavy snow had led Paul Chambers to quip in a tweet:
“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!!”.
His threat was taken seriously enough that he was arrested then charged, and at his trial he was found guilty of “Sending by a public communications network a message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” and fined £1,000. Chambers was the first Briton to be convicted of a tweet-related crime, and since lost his job twice as a result of the case.
Chambers appealed the conviction and but the judge upheld the original decision, and floods of Twitter users showed their support with joke ‘bomb’ tweets. Stephen Fry even offered to pay his fines and said he would go to prison over the matter:
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) November 11, 2010
Today, Chambers is returning to court to challenge the conviction which effectively changed his life forever. He will continue to contend that his tweet was clearly a joke and should never have been taken as a serious threat. Thousands of people will be monitoring the outcome of the appeal, and this could set a precedent for how similar cases are handled in the future. Will common sense prevail? We certainly hope so.
Last week we reported on another similar case, where a UK tweeter was held by authorities in the US and eventually banned from entering the country after saying on Twitter that he planned to destroy America, a slang term for meaning that he was planning to ‘party’ extensively.