freedom of speech in new media
Following the failure of Paul Chambers in what has become known as the "Twitter Joke Trial" and the arrest of Gareth Compton, I suggest we run a campaign on protecting freedom of speech in new media environments, like Twitter.
Gordon Craig commented
Should we consolidate our votes to make them count and pick a campaign that best suits the "No Confidence/ General election vote?" I personally feel no confidence says it all and should then lead to a general election.
or a life
wow you people dont have a laugh
Building on the #IAmSpartacus action on Twitter, where thousands of people copied and posted @pauljchambers original offending tweet, I am organising some direct action which may involve people who posted the tweet turning up at the police station IRL, showing that they also posted it, and seeing what happens.
It's an issue has engaged loads of people - including some pretty high profile people like Charlie Brooker, Stephen Fry etc etc. BUT the level of engagement has been self-referencing - i.e. people on Twitter are mad.
If we could do something witty and polite and powerful, and take it into other spheres, I think it could really take off. But I'm not sure what it would look like.
Anyone else have any ideas?
Johnny Chatterton commented
Hi everyone, I'm having trouble grasping what this campaign would look like. Could you suggest what we could do together? Who would we target (the government? the public? someone else?).
Thanks for the suggestion Erica!
Rolo, the law can very easily be interpreted to criminalise Chambers, if you regard Twitter as a PECN, and you assume that it IS likely that anybody could have seen it, and that Chambers knew this to be the case.
The law is wrong. I was very angry at Davies too, but beleive she made a judgement based on lack of information and poor law, not because she's grossly incompetent.
As Erica says: this is not about one judge. there need to be better law, better guidance on enforcement, and better information.
If anything, the point at which this whole case should have stopped was at the CPS, long before they went fishing for antiquated laws to prosecute him under.
Whether anybody who saw it regarded it as credible isn't ultimately relevant to the conviction, provided the content of the message can be proved to be menacing. That's how the law is framed.
Now, you can just as easily argue that it was menacing as you can that it WASN'T - "it was a joke" in and of itself isn't going to be a defence against this poorly worded law. We need to make the Mens Rea clearly required in law, and require an explicit intent to menace by the sender. This is absent at present.
What is also absent is a clear definition of what a PECN / Content Service is.
I can argue that on all counts, the conviction falls down, but if you stick to a cold interpretation of the law at present, it requires the judge to process and understand an awful lot of technical information to make the right verdict. This could be fixed by clarifying the law.
OK. Please let's not collapse the arguments about this case onto just one woman's judgement.
At each stage, people who are paid to assess threats of this nature marked it down as not credible - the team at the airport, the police etc etc. But "just in case" they passed it up, and it spiralled. This is a systemic issue that needs to be tackled systemically, not personalised and made about this one judge.
Rolo Tamasi commented
Matt if that was her best then she should loose her job. If the statement had been credible it would have been pursued under laws applicable to bombs and threats. It was not. If it was not credible it cannot have caused people to be alarmed.
If Judge Davies is not capable of understanding, humour, irony, hyperbole simile etc then she must be completely bemused by her inability to understand what is happening in society around her. If she did recognise it as a non-threatening joke then what she did was extremely sinister. Either way she has failed the society she serves and created nothing but damage.
It should be noted that Judge Davies was doing her best to interpret the law as stands, whilst having a limited understanding of the technology, and dealing with very poorly worded piece of legislation.
Whilst she could have interpreted the law very differently, her judgment was her best attempt at an interpretation and was perhaps in part the fault of the law itself.
Cameron Spilman commented
The internet still feels like a fairly new thing and just as this new thing was becoming interesting, free and exciting this case begins the process of dulling, curbing and restricting it.
I'd suggest that we start by specifically looking at how s.32 of the Communications Act 2003 can be clarified properly and provide more useful definitions of "electronic communications network", "public electronic communications network" and "content service", and how these apply to social media, forums and internet comms other than email.
And also to examine s.127, and investigate whether better wording or guidance could improve application of the law
I think it's also important not to demonise the judge herself. Ridiculous judgement, but she clearly has no idea what she is talking about. It's just a shame she is in a position to ruin a young man's life with her ignorance.
This stuff is hard for people who don't understand how the environment has changed. It's like asking your gran to pass judgement on it all - she will simply have a completely different way of looking at the world. Let's think of really clever, witty, powerful things we can do to challenge it :)
Adi Carter commented
Important that something is done now rather than later. The Chambers case could quite easily be the thin end of the wedge.
Can we also bar judge jaquelin Davies from anything other than serving burgers in McDonalds?