Jailed for a tweet; social media isn’t your internal monologue
No – it isn’t me!
I’m sure that everyone has heard about the footballer, Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed with cardiac arrest during a Bolton Wanderers (his team) vs Tottenham Hotspur match a while back. Thankfully, he is now seemingly recovering, conscious and alert, which is only a good thing for everyone.
But onto the more recent news, that a twitter user has been jailed for 56 days for making quote-unquote “racially offensive comments on Twitter”. Allegedly, he made a number of comments with the first coming moments after the collapse, including “LOL **** Muamba. He’s dead!!!” (which is just sickening).
As people replied to him in complaint, he made further offensive replies back, before trying to delete comments and his entire Twitter account. Here are some choice replies he made:
- you are a silly c**t… Your mothers a w*g and your dad is a rapist! Bonjour you scruffy northen c***!
- owwww go suck a n****r d*** you f*****g aids ridden c**t
- go suck muamba’s dead black d**k then you aids ridden t**t! #muambasdead
- go rape your dog! #C**t!
- I aint your friend you w*g c**t ….go pick some cotton!
- only taking the p**s, obviously people can’t take a joke
(Feel free to observe more of his timeline here)
Unfortunately for him, police received complaints from across the country, and they placed him under arrest. Despite claiming initially that his account was hacked, and then that he was drunk when he made the tweets, he has now been jailed.
“So what?” you say. Why do I care enough about this story to post. Well, a few reasons really. You might remember the Tottenham riots? And the guys who got jailed for creating a riot event on Facebook, even though the event never happened?
There are a few arguments at play here. You might say that it is a kind of thought crime, where you should be able to hold your opinion no matter how distasteful, and only physical manifestations are actionable. ‘Freedom of speech’ and all that? Bullshit. Re-read what this guy says above. Besides, he has the freedom to speak his mind, but nothing says we have to accept it as a society. But… Do I agree with jail time? Not really. The guy is clearly an asshole, and it is now evident for all to see. The 50 days in jail may seem like a paltry punishment, but actually the criminal record alone, plus the fact that this guy was until now a student with a very clean record, mean that his chances in life just got a whole lot less. He’s branded as a racist now forever, regardless of the jail time, and moreover as an unbelievable idiot. Is that enough? Especially in comparison to other jail terms, such as the over-over-over mad aforementioned Facebook guys, or the lenient community service sentences?
Part of the problem (perhaps unfairly) is, that public mood dictates jail terms, and that is a dangerous position to be in. Am I saying he got treated harshly, not necessarily, but he certainly didn’t get treated fairly. This guy got caught, let alone jail, BECAUSE he commented on a famous person. Had that just been someone tweeting about someone in the street, probably not even looked into by police. If judges cannot look at sentencing without passion influencing their opinion, it calls into question the neutrality of the courts. It merely teaches people “don’t fuck with someone famous”.
However, and this is something I’ve been saying to people for a while not, social media is NOT your diary or your internal monologue. Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Disqus, Tumblr… you name it, they all allow comments, they all allow sharing, they allow in many cases anyone and everyone to see your posting. You therefore have NO RIGHT to get mad when people do read it, or comment on it, especially if their opinion differs to yours. All too often I see people saying “If you don’t like it, hide my statuses / why did you read it? / don’t comment / unfriend me” etc. What you must realise is you have the responsibilities round the wrong way. It is not my or anyone else’s responsibility to censor and moderate you, it is your own. Blaming someone for commenting on something you chose to share on a platform built for sharing and comment is a very foolish thing.
Social media isn’t private. For most of us, it’s fun and stimulates discussion. But, don’t let yourself think for a second that just because it is online, you are shielded from retribution. You aren’t, and whilst sometimes the authorities go too far (such as the guy who got jailed for making a Twitter joke about blowing up an airport), if they get wind of you, they will come. Think before you post, and more importantly, be prepared for the consequences for when you do, whether these are the establishment, a future employer, or just your friends and peers. That is what I’m trying to point out.