Only four days after the landmark ruling in the #twitterjoketrial, another debate is ignited about Twitter and the comments posted by users of the site.
After narrowly missing out on an Olympic medal by coming in fourth with his dive partner Peter Waterfield at the Men’s Synchronised 10m platform final on Monday, Tom Daley took to twitter to express his disappointment to his fans. He received many tweets of encouragement in response but to the shock of him and his followers he received a tweet from 17 year old Twitter user @Rileyy_69 stating ‘you let your dad down I hope you know that’. Tom Daley’s father died of cancer last year.
It would appear that one tweet was not enough and @Rileyy_69 continued to tweet abusive messages to Tom Daley in which he used countless swear words, accused Tom of letting his country down and even went on to say that he would drown Tom.
The tweets have resulted in the arrest of the 17 year old Twitter user and it is thought that he is currently being questioned by Police under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 (“the Act”) (interestingly a different piece of legislation to that used to arrest and convict Mr Paul Chambers in the #twitterjoketrial). The Act makes it an offence to send a grossly offensive message via an electronic communication if the sender’s intent is to cause distress to the recipient. It is thought that the questioning of the teenager is still continuing.
This episode again serves as a stark reminder to all Twitter users that they are not beyond the reach of the law. It is important to remember that even though the tweets may have been directed at Tom Daley they were capable of being seen by the public at large and this point was noted in the #twitterjoketrial judgment by the Lord Chief Justice.
Although, how could a social network such as Twitter ever be policed and should it be? Is there a difference between the offending tweet in the #twitterjoketrial and those posted by @Rileyy_69? I would suggest so but where is the line drawn as to what constitutes ‘malicious’ or ‘menacing’ in accordance with the law and who gets to make that determination?
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