Be careful what you tweet, especially if you live in the UK. Paul Chambers, a 27-year-old accountant, was convicted in May of sending a threatening electronic communication, after he tweeted about blowing up an airport.
In a moment of frustration, after not being able to catch a flight to Belfast in January to see a woman he met via Twitter, Chambers tweeted, “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!’”
Apparently, law enforcement officials didn’t even think that Chambers intended to blow up the airport, but he was charged anyway. Rob Desira, the prosecuting attorney, told the court: “He admitted posting the message into the public domain but never intended the message to be received by the airport or for them to take it seriously.”
After Chambers’ conviction in May, he was fined £385 (approximately $615) by a district judge and told to pay £600 (approximately $958) in court costs. Chambers, who also lost his job due to the prosecution, is continuing to fight the charges. His case has been assigned to the High Court and his lawyer will challenge whether or not the law was “appropriately applied.”
The Twitter community is rightly on edge about the UK court case, which could criminalize their speech. Shortly after Paul Chambers’ initial appeal was denied, the “I’m Spartacus” campaign began encouraging others to re-tweet Chambers’ words. The #IamSpartacus hashtag is inspired by the iconic scene in the 1960s film, where slaves stood up one by one to claim “I’m Spartacus!” in order to save a fellow gladiator from being captured. Months after Chambers’ ordeal began, #IAmSpartacus is still one of the top trending topics on Twitter’s UK site.
Paul Chambers and his lawyer have until December 2 to challenge his conviction with the High Court.
What do you think? Should people be jailed or fined for their tweets? Sound Off!