There have been many cases recently where people in the UK have been arrested under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 as well as others such as the Communications Act of 2003 and the Terrorism Act 2006 for what they have said on social media web sites such as Twitter or Facebook. Paul Chambers seems to have been the first in the UK to be arrested for what he said on Twitter in 2010. He later appealed and recently had his conviction quashed.
Some of these UK cases include:
Tom Daley Twitter abuse: Police arrest boy in Weymouth
Man arrested after airport bomb joke on Twitter
Twitter users in incitement arrest warning after riots
Cyber cops arrest man, 61, for menacing chick-lit MP
UK Riots 2011: Police Arrest Three Individuals For Attempting to Incite New Riot
Flash mobs or splash mob? UK man arrested for planning water pistol fight.
Tory is arrested for Twitter call to kill columnist
Scottish teens arrested for posting on Facebook
This is also happening in other countries:
Rights activists see double standard in Twitter arrest
Oklahoma Twitter user arrested after death threat tweets
FBI raids home over use of Twitter at G20 summit
Woman arrested for ‘poking’ Facebook user
US arrests Afghan for Facebook threats
All of the above links come from various online media organisations so what is written in them should be taken with a grain of salt, nevertheless, they show the extent of people being arrested for what they have said on social media web sites. The above list is not extensive and was compiled from a few simple searches on Google News.
I have never studied law neither do I pretend to know all that much about it. The question is, do these arrests on social media sites cause more harm than good? Do they violate human rights? Do they violate freedom of speech? There is no doubt in my mind that nearly all of the people arrested for what they have said on social media sites are complete morons but I do believe they should have the right to say their moronic words freely. If the authorities believe their threats to have any -intent- then they should be properly investigated, innocent until proven guilty.
Are the people being arrested only being arrested because their words target high profile people or the government or the authorities? I would say not in every case, but it does seem to be the majority of cases.
How many people are threatening other people on Twitter that are not being arrested? There are many people inciting violence, using threatening behaviour, causing anxiety and distress to others on Twitter that are not being arrested.
In the latest case which made me write this blog post Tom Daley an Olympic athlete was sent a nasty tweet by the 17 year old Rileyy69 user which has since had his account suspended. It is unclear if the arrest was because of what he tweeted to Tom Daley or what he said to other users. What he said in my opinion was no worse than what other people are currently saying on Twitter, why was he arrested and others were not?
People are going to say moronic things on the Internet. I think that most people’s threats online carry no intent at all and are just bravado, jokes or immaturity. I believe that you should be able to say what you want on the Internet, if the authorities believe what you say is a credible threat then it should be acted upon but most of the threats I’ve seen seem to have no real intent behind them. Therefor my conclusion is that *most* of these arrests are unnecessary. There are of course people out there that may really intend to cause you harm and these should be dealt with accordingly.