Twitter users given legal warning in Britain

May 12, 2012
A student who mocked English Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba, pictured here on May 2, on Twitter after he collapsed on the pitch with a heart attack in March was jailed for 56 days after admitting a racially aggravated public order offence.

The Internet is not a law-free zone, the British government's top law officer warned Twitter users, adding that he would not hesitate to take action over offending posts.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve, the government's chief legal advisor in England and Wales, spoke out following a series of high-profile court cases involving postings made on the micro-blogging site.

"If somebody goes down to the pub with printed sheets of paper and hands it out, that's no different than if somebody goes and does a tweet," Grieve told BBC radio.

"The idea that you have immunity because you're an anonymous tweeter is a big mistake.

"I don't want to take action but if I think it is necessary to prevent crime, such as racially aggravated , then I won't hesitate to do it."

A student who mocked English Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba on after he collapsed on the pitch with a in March was jailed for 56 days after admitting a racially aggravated public order offence.

Some 17 arrests have been made in connection with the alleged naming on Twitter of the woman that Wales footballer Ched Evans was last month convicted of raping.

In March, former New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns won a libel action against ex-Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi in the first libel action heard in England against a post on Twitter.

Judge David Bean dismissed match-fixing levelled against the cricketer, leaving Modi facing a bill of more than £500,000 ($800,000).

Grieve said the government did not need to create new laws as existing ones already make it illegal to "grossly offend" or "cause distress".

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5 / 5 (4) May 12, 2012
Hey, why don't they enforce it for all internet forums? Don't just pick on Twitter.
not rated yet May 12, 2012
English history is like watching the evolution of a society.
4.4 / 5 (8) May 12, 2012
Censorship by popularity or government action is no less dangerous to liberty. Freedom of Speech is not to be confused with Freedom to Agree. Those that belong to a belief system that abhores freedom and is devoid of tolerance, one which outlaws dissention and critism and would like to extend that rule of law beyond it's own confines will rejoice mightily. This action may be well meaning but it is wrong and it is dangerous.
5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2012
Doug, probably a hajib. Seriously, people, google "banality of evil" you may find it interesting.
5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2012

Slander and Libel have been illegal in most countries for several centuries.

Even in America, the first amendment doesn't give you the right to make personal attacks on people, or to falsely accuse them of a crime, or other such defamation. It also doesn't give you the right to violate court orders such as keeping a witness' identity secret.

Oh yeah, if the law were actually enforced regarding Libel on the internet, I suppose tens of millions of people would need to be fined or arrested, possibly multiple times per day.

Law .
defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.
the act or crime of publishing it.
a formal written declaration or statement, as one containing the allegations of a plaintiff or the grounds of a charge.
anything that is defamatory or that maliciously or damagingly misrepresents.
4.4 / 5 (7) May 12, 2012
"racially aggravated harassment"

I believe its not a harassment if it happens online. Because most online services including twitter give you the option to block the offender. Thus if you get harassed, it is your choice.

I prefer a hands-off approach. Grow a thick skin when on the internet. It is sad to see the UK leading the charge in internet censorship nowadays.
4.6 / 5 (9) May 12, 2012
UK libel law is unlike that of most other countries in that no account is taken on whether any effect occurred--merely to broadcast something (even if it is ignored and unread) and causes an individual no harm, or reduction of reputation is irrelevant--all that is required is that it might.

This is also the case for "racially aggravated harassment" where it is irrelevant that the tweet was ignored as a stupid trolling--what counted legally was that its intent could be deemed motivated to cause distress or gross offense (irrespective of whether it did or did not).

The UK law by ignoring proportionality and actual effect (56 days for words when actual causing physical harm might be let off with a causion), is, of cause, an ass.
4.6 / 5 (10) May 12, 2012
A free internet is the ultimate meritocracy, where thoughts & ideas can be expressed and challenged purely on the balance of reason, basically a place where people are allowed - if not encouraged - to make asses of themselves if that's their bag, in a safe and annonymous environment. This fosters growth not just of individuals but of overall culture.

Criminalising the act of self expression is an obscene, fascist response of a mindset too weak to be able to defend its own positions in a mature and democratic way.

Said it before and i'll say it again: thank G_d most of the internet infrastructure's still stateside. Like my email account. Frickin' UK Govts. full of interfering ninny busybodies who fear what they don't understand and can't control....
3.4 / 5 (5) May 12, 2012
"If somebody goes down to the pub with printed sheets of paper and hands it out, that's no different than if somebody goes and does a tweet," Grieve told BBC radio.

No it isn't.

The difference is that in a pub, people can't help but get handed your papers, whereas in Twitter you have to subscribe to follow anyone. Opt-out versus opt-in.
3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2012
The British have an enormous appetite for tabloid gossip, and many subjects of that gossip have successfully sued in the courts, where I think each case belongs. Here in the States, a woman was criminally prosecuted for instigating the suicide of a young girl who thought she was being courted by a boy online, only it was the mother of another girl who was posing. An awful tragedy, and the woman responsible should be held accountable. I'm a supporter of the ACLU, but in a few instances, as in the "yelling 'FIRE' in a crowded theater", or publishing Nazi propaganda in Germany, which is illegal, should be restricted. No matter what the disseminating medium, the offended party can exercise their right to sue in a court of law.
3.7 / 5 (6) May 12, 2012
Lurker, I cannot argue the definitions you illuminate. I will say this: Nowhere did the article say ANYTHING about libel OR slander. What it referred to was "offensive" tweets. Furthermore, it did refer to harrassment and in this instance racialy aggravated harrassment.
While the latter is easier to define, the former begs the question "who determines what is offensive?". The logical argument is to answer "why the offended, of course." That's where the "Banality of Evil" comes into play. One can be offended by something that cannot pass the litmus test of Libel or Slander.
If I told you that (for example)Muhammad was a known pedophile, because according to historical documents that he married his wife Aisha at age six and consummated the marriage at age 9 ( think "3rd grader") some Muslims may say that is offensive. Due to the fact it is a historical fact should I be prosecuted? Is it "Racially Aggravated Harrassment" Because Muslims erroneously consider Islam a race?
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2012
"If somebody goes down to the pub with printed sheets of paper and hands it out, that's no different than if somebody goes and does a tweet," Grieve told BBC radio.

No it isn't.

The difference is that in a pub, people can't help but get handed your papers, whereas in Twitter you have to subscribe to follow anyone. Opt-out versus opt-in.

Your logic and powers of reasoning are worthy of note and I must agree with what you have written...and ...I like your furniture store (IKEA,...right?) These particular British authorities will have to realize that they have every right to restrict hate speech - speech that incites to harm or provokes through character assassination, BUT, this IS the internet age! Even facebook isn't safe dude! Old school censorship just will not work and a modern fully empowered democracy, having truly democratic values, must allow the expression of the 'horrible' or 'unsavory'. With democratic values THIS IS one of the risks you must accept!
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2012
Why shouldn't the internet be law-free (though not in terms of hackers)? It's done pretty well so far without these meddlers.
3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2012
@Burnerjack.. and let's not forget certain Islamic states have expressed a keen interest in extraditiing Western citizens for percieved insults to Islam in much the same manner as America's prosecution of Gary McKinnon or Richard O'Dwyer - on the basis that the internet represents a 'national presence' in whatever country the offended party resides in - even if it isn't a crime in the accused's country of residence from which the alledged offences where physically committed.

We've lost enough freedoms in the name of anti-terror legislation already. If they're gonna ban us from being offensive then how long before they start extraditing us for it?
2.3 / 5 (3) May 12, 2012
The British government has really become creepy. What a crappy country. There is no country in the West that so desperately need a revolution. It's rotten, corrupt, perverse.

A really great zombie movie would be the undead of the sugar cane growing islands under British colonial rule overrun London and exact revenge on all of the stuffed shirts in Parliament. The zombies could be dressed in Carnaby Street style clothing.
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2012
The British and American leadership are insane. Long live the Federation.
2.3 / 5 (3) May 13, 2012
Surely pR0n's more about self-indulgence than self-expression? Why the disingenuity - clearly you reserve the right to cause offence, yet you'd deny it to others (although i guess i see the parallels - i mean that's just as onansitic, isn't it (ditto top-posting))?
1 / 5 (1) May 13, 2012
Given that the bulk of the internet is dedicated to porn, the content of porn must therefore be a truth that we all must accept as a truthful depiction of human relationships.

The content of porn is sex. It's no more untruthful than the religious sexual repression so many people suffer from. Hence the volume of it on the web.
1 / 5 (1) May 13, 2012
Another important comment made by AG Dominic Grieve:
"If I don't want to take action but if I think it is necessary to prevent crime, such as racially aggravated harrassment, then I won't hesitate to do it"
Seeing as Civil disturbance is a crime, does that not place judicial power in the hands of anyone who threatens crime in response to a posting? If so, this is akin to the domestic abuser who states "Don't make me hurt you!" This statement portends to the Judicial System being intimidated or extorted into action, therefore becoming a defacto government arm of the offended person or group. Back to that "Banality of Evil" thing. The comment AG Grieve made was far from an offhand comment.
1 / 5 (1) May 13, 2012
Porn does not have truth value. It is not an opinion, but a thing.
1 / 5 (1) May 14, 2012
Eric Arthur Blair's warning about Britain, published 8 June 1949 less than a year before his death, has become a template for the British oligarchy. Hume, Locke, Paine, would be appalled.
1 / 5 (1) May 14, 2012
A free internet means freedom to send porn to 8 year olds doesn't it?

"Porn does not have truth value" - Shotman

Are you saying sending porn to 8 year olds should be criminalised?

Its the responsibility of the PARENTS to protect their children from internet porn, not the state.
Internet must remain free.
3 / 5 (2) May 14, 2012
WAIT JUST A DAMN MINUTE HERE: Isn't this the same country where several Prime Ministers have sold their souls to Rupert Murdoch for the pottage of favorable press? Meanwhile Tweeters are fined $800,000 pounds for allegedly offensive statements`by the government? How many other UK residents are crazy?

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