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Man arrested under Terror Act for Twitter joke

TwitterThose who like making risqué jokes on Twitter should probably steer clear of terrorism-related material for a while, following the astonishing news that a 26-year-old man has been arrested for facetiously threatening to blow up an airport on the micro-blogging site.

Faced with frustrating snow-related travel difficulties, 26-year-old Paul Chambers went on to Twitter and issued an ultimatum to Robin Hood Airport to sort things out. "Otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!" he added, perhaps unwisely.

A week later, Mr Chambers was arrested, apparently under Terrorism Act legislation. He was bailed following a seven-hour interrogation, suspended from work pending an internal investigation and banned from the airport for life.

Online accountability

One of the most irritating characteristics of the internet age - albeit one that is beginning to fade - is the idea that you can say whatever you like, with no consequences. Everyone's a hero when they're sitting in front of their monitor, and we've all 'enjoyed' an encounter with some idiot blowhard who's decided to take on the global Jewish conspiracy from the comfort of a YouTube comment board.

Whatever poisonous viewpoint, lazy bad-taste publicity stunt or ridiculous prejudice you can imagine, there will be an anonymous forum somewhere where it's being inarticulately endorsed by newly converted and utterly cowardly free-speech advocates.

But this is not one of those situations. Mr Chambers was posting under his own name, under the reasonable expectation that anyone following his comments would understand that he was joking. It was not a threat or a confession. It was a joke. Do the police think a real terrorist is going to announce their plans on Twitter? Did they think they'd spotted this Napoleon of crime's tiny, fatal mistake?

We've all written things we shouldn't have on the web*. And we should be held accountable for those comments, just as we should in real life. But there is such a thing as context, people.

(*Okay. Looking back through my tweets the most appalling crimes I can detect are a threat to sing a public duet with PC Advisor's editor - which may not be covered by the Terror Act but probably should be - and one of the worst puns in human history.)

(Via The Independent.)

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