When Joking Goes Too Far: Social Media Posts Can Put You in Jail
Everyone uses social media to execute their right to free speech. Unfortunately, there is only so much that you can say on these sites that will not have any negative consequences.
Too many people have used Facebook and put their foot in their mouth. Just look at Ashton Kutcher, who didn’t know anything about why Penn State was firing Joe Paterno and tweeted about how he thought it was in poor taste. (Shortly after realizing the truth, Kutcher recanted and put his Twitter feed in the hands of his marketing company.
Aside from having 8 million people tell him he’s an idiot, Kutcher didn’t face any serious consequences. Unfortunately, there are other people who inappropriately run their mouths on social media sites in such a serious manner that it ends up earning them some jail time.
Azhar Ahmed is a Muslim young man whose frustration with the UK’s involvement with Afghanistan led him to post a status update on Facebook that read, “all soldiers should die and go to hell”. This statement did not resonate well with his following or the UK government. He was charged with violating the Communications Act of 2003, and was sentenced with 240 hours of community service. His initial punishment aimed for jail time, but since Ahmed quickly removed the post and apologized, it was lessened to community service.
Matthew Woods jumped on Facebook and wrote a status update that involved making jokes about two missing girls: April Jones and Madeleine McCann. Woods was not only arrested for his distasteful posts, but he was also placed under protective custody when a mob of 50 people raided his home ready to punish him for his actions. Woods was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail.
When Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the field during a game, Liam Stacey turned to Twitter and wrote, “LOL. Fuck Muamba. He’s dead.” Even when other people on Twitter told him he was being offensive, he lashed out on them too. His tweet gained attention from police, who arrested Stacey. He was sentenced to 56 days in jail and also expelled from his university.
Paul Chambers may have had his conviction overturned, but he was still arrested and had to go through court due to a silly Tweet. Chambers wanted to see his out of town girlfriend, but found out that Robin Hood airport was closed due to inclement weather. Chambers turned to Twitter and stated, “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!!” He claimed it was a joke, but he was still arrested nonetheless.
Neil Swinburne is currently under investigation after allegedly creating a Facebook page titled, “Dale Cregan is a Hero”. Dale Cregan is currently under arrest for four murders, including two police officers, Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, and two citizens, Mark Short and David Short. A Facebook page dedicated to praise the alleged murderer was created and traced back to Swinburne.
Garrett Payne is a marketing expert writing in tandem with SEOMap – a group specializing in SEO keyword research.