Monday, January 18, 2010

Why can't people who police websites not view posts in context rather than apply a knee-jerk reaction?

When heavy snowfall threatened to scupper Paul Chambers's travel plans, he decided to vent his frustrations on Twitter by tapping out a comment to amuse his friends. "Robin Hood airport is closed," he wrote. "You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" Unfortunately for Mr Chambers, the police didn't see the funny side. A week after posting the message on the social networking site, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and questioned for almost seven hours by detectives who interpreted his post as a security threat.

You can read the whole story by clicking here but I agree with the civil libertarian Tessa Mayes, an expert on privacy law and free speech issues, who said: "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."

...So there you have it, all people who police websites, we know who they are - not just the traditional Police Forces but also some self appointed censors, should view comments in the light of the banter on that particular website. What, when taken out of context could be claimed as "inappropriate comments", can be very easily and correctly explained away as comments made within the style adopted by other users of that website. Never mind Paul wasting police time, the Police have wasted their time and taxpayers money investigating this alleged thought crime. People must retain their rights to free speech and freedom of expression, otherwise our society will sink further into becoming a police state. When a society becomes a police state, all manner of evils take place behind closed doors and nobody ever gets to hear about it.
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