Be careful what you say on the Internet, unless you want to find yourself with a criminal record and a bill for $1,500 - at least that's the lesson a British man may be learning today after a court found him guilty of "sending a threatening message".
According to The Register, Paul Chambers posted a message on Twitter last January, when the airport he was set to fly out of the next week closed due to weather, threatening to blow it "sky high".
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!
Although the tweet was never taken as a credible threat, according to a manager at the airport who found the tweet and testified at the trial, Chambers was prosecuted and today was found guilty.
The Telegraph reports that a district judge ruled that the tweet was "of a menacing nature in the context of the times in which we live". The Telegraph writes that "district judge Jonathan Bennett found Chambers guilty of sending a message by means of a public electronic message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character contrary to the Communications Act 2003."
Chambers not only has to pay nearly $1,500 in fines but lost his job as an accountant trainee due to the prosecution. Chambers has been tweeting about the situation all day today, responding to questions and other tweets. In one tweet, he says that he is "Currently considering an appeal. Half of me just wants it to be over, the other half is indignant."
While Chambers called the tweet "innocuous hyperbole", we have to wonder how he hopes to argue his case. Even in the U.S. under the First Ammendment, incitement to violence is not protected. At the same time, if someone says aloud, in anger, "I'm so mad, I could kill..." or something according to those lines, should they be prosecuted for making death threats? How about if they tweet it? Is it a matter of how public or permanent the statement is?