Twitter users angry at the conviction of a man who threatened to blow up an airport in a Twitter joke showed their support for him in their thousands, and thumbed their nose at the law by republishing the words that landed him in trouble.
Paul Chambers, a 27-year-old accountant yesterday lost his appeal against his conviction and £1,000 fine for a comment he made in jest when he was concerned he might miss a flight to Belfast.
Crap! 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!! he wrote in January.
Chambers was controversially prosecuted under a law aimed at nuisance calls – originally to protect female telephonists at the Post Office in the 1930s – rather than specific bomb hoax legislation, which requires stronger evidence of intent.
Civil liberties lawyers criticised his conviction as did the Twitter community, which reacted with a vengeance today to his failed appeal. Under the hashtag #IAmSpartacus – a reference to the film in which Spartacus’s fellow gladiators show their solidarity with him by each proclaiming I am Spartacus – thousands of people have retweeted Chambers’ original message. As a result of the show of support for Chambers the #IAmSpartacus was the second most popular worldwide subject being referred to on Twitter at the time of writing.
The ‘judge’ who rejected Chambers’ appeal is unlikely to see the funny side of it, having dismissed his lawyers’ arguments that he should not be punished for a foolish prank. ‘Judge’ Jacqueline Davies called the tweet menacing in its content and obviously so. It could not be more clear. Any ordinary person reading this would see it in that way and be alarmed. She also ordered him to pay a further £2,000 legal bill for the latest proceedings.
Communications Act 2003
A disgraceful law that Burma, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and China would be proud of.Thanks to eMark
See article from legislation.gov.uk
Section 127 Improper use of public electronic communications network
(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he-
(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or
(b) causes any such message or matter to be so sent.
(2) A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he-
(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,
(b) causes such a message to be sent; or
(c) persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.
(4) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply to anything done in the course of providing a programme service (within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (c. 42)).