#IAmSpartacus claim thousands of twitter users now enraged by the treatment of Paul Chambers who just lost an appeal against a conviction and £1000 fine for posting a jokey message on Twitter. In January Paul Chambers had been trying to catch a flight, in bad weather, to Belfast Airport to see his girlfriend.
Worried about missing his flight he tweeted ""Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" That message is now being re-tweeted by thousands of Twitter users in defiance of the law.
The tweet came to the attention of the authorities and the full force of the law came down on his head when he was prosecuted. A prosecution under terrorist legislation would of course have required that the prosecutors establish intent in his message and it was quite clear to the police and obviously to the prosecutors that he had no intent to blow anything up. If reports are to be believed the police who investigated accepted without question from the start that he had been joking.
Instead prosecutors found an old telecommunications act originally designed to protect telephone operators from abuse and prosecuted him under that law. Talk about using a hammer to crack a nut!
Many thousands of pounds will have been wasted on this ridiculous prosecution which has raised widespread concern, yet again, about the attitude of the courts to freedom of speech issues. For many Twitter users the last straw came when he lost his appeal and a campaign started with people re-tweeting his original message under the tag #IAmSpartacus in a massive campaign of defiance against the law.
This is not the only case this week where someones use of Twitter has got them into hot water. Tory Councillor Gareth Thompson was arrested this week and charged under the Telecoms Act 20043 after making what was intended to be a jokey remark about Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.
he had been reacting to her saying on Radio 5 Live that no politician had the right to comment on human rights abuses, even the stoning of women in Iran. In response Compton tweeted "Can someone please stone Alibhai-brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It really would be a blessing". Alibhai-Brown is of course not stupid enough to think that this was a real call for her to be stoned but she nevertheless decided to take great offence and the matter has rolled on from there.
While both these remarks may be tasteless it is debatable if the correct response to them is to bring down the full force of the law. There is a long tradition in this country of forceful and satirical debate about matters of public interest and people in the public eye. It is one of the things that helps to maintain a healthy democratic process and it''s very concerning to see this kind of knee jerk reaction by the state to debate which is clearly couched in tongue in cheek terms.
Even more worrying are the double standards that are clearly evident. Yesterday a group of Muslims staged a poppy burning event in a calculated insult to British servicemen and women everywhere. Hardly anything more clearly designed to spark a breach of the peace can be imagined on remembrance day. The police intervened to try to keep order and some arrests were made but nevertheless these idiot fanatics enjoyed their full and protected right to express their extremely offensive and threatening views - in public.
Law and practice in the UK really is in a sorry state when it comes to freedom of speech and dealing with real threats to the public and public order.
Really, if things don't improve I will have no choice but to arm the Dark Matter Bomb that I have been secretly building in my spare time in my basement and blow up the whole of the world including the British establishment to make my point.
(FAO the authorities - there is of course no such thing as a "Dark Matter Bomb" - I was of course JOKING. That's joking as in not meant to be taken seriously. If you don't understand the meaning of that word I can lend you a dictionary.)