Twitter Supports Bomb Joker With #IAmSpartacus Tag
Twitter users stand up to be counted, as bomb joke becomes a free speech issue
The world of Twitter has exploded – figuratively. A flurry of Tweeters have been using the #IAmSpartacus and #twitterjoketrial hashtags to send fake bomb threats in support of Paul Chambers, who was fined £1,000 for a humorous Tweet.
Heathrow airport, Derby railway station and many other places have been the targets of obviously non-serious Tweet threats, imitating the Tweet originally sent by Chambers in January, in which he threatened to blow up Robin Hood airport, because it was snowed in.
Now living in Ireland, Chambers’ conviction and fine stand, despite the fact that, according to his lawyer, “no one in a month of Sundays” would take his Tweet seriously.
Chambers sent his original Tweet when Doncaster’s Robin Hood airport was closed by snow, saying: ““Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week… otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!”
Days later, police visited his home, confiscated his computer and other gadgets, and he was prosecuted under a law originally passed to control messages sent on old-fashioned telephone switchboards.
No-one could actually have taken his original Tweet seriously, says legal blogger David Allen Green on the Jack of Kent blog, so this means anyone else making similar jokes, or repeating his Tweet, should also be prosecuted under the same law.
In theory, Tweeters using the #IAmSpartacus hashtag – and Guardian writer Charlie Brooker who did more or less the same in print – are in theory risking the same fate as Chambers, like the slaves in the famous scene in the movie, Spartacus.