- Egypt rights center raided, 2 Mubaraks acquitted
- New Mexico Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage constitutional
- Blame Bush: 5 years later, that’s still the mantra, pollsters find
- Dutch prostitutes demand same retirement benefits as soccer stars
- John McCain to Harry Reid: I’ll ‘kick the crap’ out of you
- Dogs that talk: Researchers seek $10K for ‘No More Woof’ technology
- 1,000 firefighters called to battle stubborn Big Sur wildfire
- Black Friday brouhaha: Millions of Target shoppers hit by credit card theft
- Britain orders airplane to rescue citizens from violent South Sudan
- Mega Millions winner emerges as Georgia mom, in ‘disbelief’
In UK, Twitter, Facebook rants land some in jail
Question of the Day
For civil libertarians, this was the most painfully ironic arrest of all. Poppies are traditionally worn to commemorate the sacrifice of those who died for Britain and its freedoms.
“What was the point of winning either World War if, in 2012, someone can be casually arrested by Kent Police for burning a poppy?” tweeted David Allen Green, a lawyer with London firm Preiskel who worked on the Paul Chambers case.
Critics of the existing laws say they are both inadequate and inconsistent.
Many of the charges come under a section of the 2003 Electronic Communications Act, an update of a 1930s statute intended to protect telephone operators from harassment. The law was drafted before Facebook and Twitter were born, and some lawyers say is not suited to policing social media, where users often have little control over who reads their words.
It and related laws were intended to deal with hate mail or menacing phone calls to individuals, but they are being used to prosecute in cases where there seems to be no individual victim _ and often no direct threat.
And the Internet is so vast that policing it _ even if desirable _ is a hit-and-miss affair. For every offensive remark that draws attention, hundreds are ignored. Conversely, comments that people thought were made only to their Facebook friends or Twitter followers can flash around the world.
While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that First Amendment protections of freedom of speech apply to the Internet, restrictions on online expression in other Western democracies vary widely.
In Germany, where it is an offense to deny the Holocaust, a neo-Nazi group has had its Twitter account blocked. Twitter has said it also could agree to block content in other countries at the request of their authorities.
There’s no doubt many people in Britain have genuinely felt offended or even threatened by online messages. The Sun tabloid has launched a campaign calling for tougher penalties for online “trolls” who bully people on the Web. But others in a country with a cherished image as a bastion of free speech are sensitive to signs of a clampdown.
In September Britain’s chief prosecutor, Keir Starmer, announced plans to draw up new guidelines for social media prosecutions. Starmer said he recognized that too many prosecutions “will have a chilling effect on free speech.”
“I think the threshold for prosecution has to be high,” he told the BBC.
“For a couple of weeks after the appeal, we got word of judges actually quoting the case in similar instances and the charges being dropped,” said Chambers, who today works for his brother’s warehouse company. “We thought, `Fantastic! That’s exactly what we fought for.’ But since then we’ve had cases in the opposite direction. So I don’t know if lessons have been learned, really.”
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless
By Michael P. Orsi
Edward Snowden should declare his patriotism in court
- Citing 'unfair system,' Obama commutes sentences for 8 crack offenders
- Homeland Security helps smuggle illegal immigrant children into the U.S.
- Gov't wasted $30 billion on 'pillownauts,' crystal goblets -- buying human urine!
- Bill Gates: The Secret Santa disguised as a 'friendly fellow' on Reddit
- Obamacare 'pajamas boy' gets roundly mocked
- Armed response, not restrictive gun laws, brought swift end to school shooting
- Duck Dynasty Phil Robertson suspended indefinitely for gay quip
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- UHLER and FERRARA: Obamacare, the end of the progressive era
- U.S. Army mulls wiping out memory of Robert E. Lee, 'Stonewall' Jackson
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Southern Fried Politics from the Lens of a Persian-American Millennial
All of the world’s problems, solved on your back porch
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow