In one of the most bizarre stories of recent times, a British teenager has been arrested for a tweet in which no one swore, threatened, made racial or sexual statements. KitGuru considers how free a country can be when you’re not free to tweet an opinion.
Right now, in the UK, people are being arrested at the rate of about once a month for tweets.
While that number might seem low, you need to consider what people are being arrested for – how much these arrests are costing and what kind of state we might be living in, for example, by 2022.
People tend to tweet what is immediately on their minds. The impulse thought becomes your contribution to the world. Now these tweeted thoughts can lead to arrest. Thought police anyone ?
The idea of constantly monitoring what people think and then arresting them if the thoughts do not concur with what the authorities deem suitable is not new, but arrest on this basis is certainly looking more and more likely as things move forward.
In this latest case, the teenager who was arrested did not threaten anyone, did not swear or entice anyone to join a terrorist sect.
The tweet that caused the arrest was “You let your dad down I hope you know that”, which was aimed at a British athlete who failed to achieve his potential in the diving competition. The diver, Tom Daley, lost his father last year – which certainly puts the tweet into the ‘bad taste’ category – but cause for arrest in a free, western society?
Anyone who watches programmes like Mock The Week or who has seen Jimmy Carr live, will know just how offensive people can be. If we start to arrest people for non-terrorist/non-violent tweets, then how will we know where fascist dictatorships start and free press democracies end?
Here’s a thought: Should Twitter pay for an advertising campaign that says “Tweeting what you think can lead to arrest, even if you’re not living in a fascist dictatorship or communist state”. You know, just to make sure Twitter users in a Western Democracy understand the dangers.
KitGuru says: Not sure you could get away with this arrest in, say, the USA. Given how close the two countries are in terms of language, history and cultural beliefs – does the UK really want to be seen to increase police spending on arresting people for questionable tweets? If an American met with a British friend and exchanged tweets on this subject, could they be (a) fine in the US, but (b) be put behind bars in the UK. It just sounds daft.
Comment below or in the KitGuru forums.