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Friday, 12 November 2010

Twitter Is Spartacus

Twitter has exploded! But careful, that sort of language could land you in the dock, defending something you may have said in frustration that any reasonably intelligent person would know was not meant as a literal or serious (or even credible) terrorist threat.

Paul Chambers lost his appeal at the Twitter Joke Trial yesterday and got himself landed with a fine that anyone who has just lost their job, career prospects and anonymity over a stupid and misjudged message on a social network site would struggle to afford easily. 

After suffering a disappointment in the run-up to see a friend - the airport he was to fly from was closed - he posted an angrily-worded Tweet (pictured) and found himself arrested, detained, accused, fired, criminalised and supported by hundreds of thousands of fellow Twitter users, including most of the left-leaning "Celebs" who felt, as most did, that this was a big fuss over next-to-nothing. It was just one man voicing his frustration and disappointment about a much-anticipated trip. We've all posted things on Twitter before that have been a bit near-the-mark when it comes to good-taste/bad-taste, but context is everything. Nobody who publicly Tweets "I'm going to blow up an airport" or anything of the like, from their personal, traceable, named, publicly-viewable social networking account has ANY plans at all do anything of the sort! 

You seem to find that terrorists nowadays strike with the element of surprise. They do it anonymously, in the most part, or the responsibility is accepted by a major terrorist network. Not a social one. Don't get me wrong. What Paul Chambers did was silly. It was not the sort of thing that is looked upon lightly in today's horror- and terror-stricken age of printer bombs and fundamentalism. 

But any surface investigation would have shown that Chambers had, not only no terrorist links, or history of violence or anything of the sort, but a great sense of humour (most of the time). His time line on Twitter was full of witty little posts! Some of them as daring as the one that saw him in court! Celebrities like Charlie Brooker, Frankie Boyle and others who have carved a living from their angry, daring, yet obviously-not-serious aggressive opinions should all watch out, because they have all posted far, far worse than that - as have I!

Now, the social network of choice by most of the "reasonable people" on the planet - Twitter - has shown its solidarity to Chambers' case in typically daring and opinionated style. Thousands of users have repeated the incriminating Tweet, word for word, and added the hashtag #IAmSpartacus - in reference to the famous scene in the movie. So either the courts have to get their heads around whether thousands of threats are 'nothing to worry about' but one single threat is, or we're all heading for a shit Christmas. Either way, it highlights to those who never care to see that "reasonable people" are everywhere, not just in the Judge's closing statement. And THESE reasonable people, the thousands tweeting in Chambers' support (Stephen Fry has even offered to pay his fine!), saw the Tweet for what it was. Anger and frustration ill-advisedly transferred into a below-par joke. 

This country is going to the dogs. I'm proud that when it happens there are many thousands of others with whom to say "we told you so". This hashtag thing has really restored my faith in humanity and its power to speak louder in unity than it would alone. Now lets see if it has the power to overturn a judgement!