Twittersphere Fear…

This has been both a fascinating and frightening week in the world of Social Media. For those of you not blessed with the friend that is Twitter, let me fill you in a bit..

In January a tweeter made a joke.. a poor joke some would say but a joke nonetheless.  This led to a criminal conviction, I kid you not.. 140 characters bashed out on a laptop in mere seconds, has cost a man his job, thousands of pounds in legal fees and fines and he now has a criminal record.  What was the joke I hear you cry?  This one..

“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 skyhigh!!”

See, not really funny is it, taken out of context.. To the regular followers of Paul Chambers’ tweets, it showed his frustration, nerves and excitement about flying to meet a lady the following week that he was very smitten by.  To an outsider, it seems to have been viewed as a serious security threat.   Although, I am pretty sure terrorists do not generally give a week’s notice and their real names when making bomb threats. 

Judge Jacqueline Davies deemed fit to uphold the original conviction when it came to appeal before her this week.  It worries me that Judges such as Ms Davies do not specialise in a chosen field, almost like GPs they rely on advice given to them on the day, rather than having prior experience and knowledge of the topic.  (Here is the full Judgment)

Following the upholding of the original judgement, a Twitterstorm was evoked, with over 20,000 people tweeting Paul Chamber’s words with the hashtag #IAmSpartacus. Paul is, I believe planning to take the case to the High Court and we will back him all the way, not just as Spartacus but financially and if need be, physically at the court-house.

( Picture via @Crispian_Jago  #TwitterJokeTrial #IamSpartacus)

Another Twitter story is the case of the Tory councillor Gareth Compton who, as above, made a joke. This one was, in my opinion far more offensive and crass but again, when isolated, the single tweet is menacing.  The important difference here is that, unlike Paul, this author is an elected representative and should really know better!  If you are in a position of power, demanding respect then you should be above reproach.

Mr Compton was responding to a radio interview he was listening to, as so many of us tweeters do.. we commentate on TV, Radio, something that our parents have said, what our lunch is.. Gareth Compton has been arrested but was released on bail, presumably as the police do not see him as a real, physical threat to the person the tweet made reference to.  He has also been suspended from the Conservative Party.  (I won’t link to nor repeat his tweet as I find it particularly offensive and racist)

Then came this article today by Quentin Letts, published in the Daily Mail which has thrown another angle into the mix..   A tweeter known as @Baskers has been publicly “named and shamed” at the will of a journalist. Although Sarah openly used her photograph and real name on her twitter biography, she also said the following: “I’m a Civil Servant, but this is my personal account & it’s my own personal views, not the Depts.” 

Sarah not only tweets about her day-to-day life but also writes a good blog on topics that affect her, as many of us do.  She recently wrote about the effect of government cuts to her department and her frustration about the Civil Service being attacked in the press.

So why are Sarah’s tweets and blogs so important to a Daily Mail journalist? Is he seriously trying to protect the Civil Service’s reputation by reporting her words to her bosses or is there something deeper going on here?  I thought it was odd that Sally Bercow was brought into the article as being a friend of Sarah’s.. she doesn’t really seem relevant to the piece? However, having looked at negative previous posts by Mr Letts about Mrs Bercow, she is perhaps the key and Twitter can relax and tweet away as usual…

So, what are we to do Twitter?  David Allen Green aka @jackofkent has advised us to “tweet and delete” as we go along.  I can see his point.  Future employers for example are already using Google to check out potential employee’s.  Are we risking our own future’s by tweeting and even chosing to “like” something on Facebook? 

I think of Twitter and this blog as my diary, as do many other users and I don’t want to delete my tweets! However, even anonymity can’t protect you if someone is determined enough to find out who you really are and where you work.  (As I know to my cost, anything written on the internet stays there forever to be interpreted as the reader sees fit, particularly if they have a hidden agenda). 

This wont make me popular but I would advise you all to remove your first or surname’s from your Twitter account, dont tweet from work unless you are on a scheduled break nor use your company name, Big Brother really is watching you..

Or.. you can say “Freedom of expression is my right, guaranteed to me by Article 10. If you want it you can take it from my cold dead hands. But if you try, remember #IAmSpartacus. Because my name is Legion, and I am many.” < Awesome blog post from @gaijinsan21

( Good post by @dnotice about #TweetDelete )


  1. […] fairly well (although only a handful of people in the bar ”got it”, I read out the #TwitterJokeTrial tweet – what a rebel!) but my second was disastrous.. I hadn’t banked on winning […]

  2. It’s quite possible that I’ll never get another job if anyone takes my Twitter feed at face value. I have a different one I use for work which is swear- and hashtag game-free. However, since I don’t hide my identity, were anyone to take offense at anything I say on Twitter I’d be deep in the doodoo. I do take care not to be such an arse that I’d get myself into trouble. In effect I self-censor. Twitter and other social platforms are just like any other social sphere. You are always open to accusations of twattery so it’s best not to be much of a twat at all.

  3. Humph,
    I understand what you’re saying, but I can honestly say that I’m so exasperated by this big brother culture that I’ve gone in the other direction entirely. I refuse to live my life in the fear that my boss will find my behaviour objectionable; if he doesn’t like it and chooses to terminate my contract as a result of that, I’ll find myself a better boss. I’d sooner stack shelves in a supermarket or flip burgers than be so heavily compromised.

  4. I’m not surrendering to these idiots. I’m lucky that I don’t use any work-owned internet connections. Twitter-folk are in general “ahead of the game” over the establishment. In Remembrance Week, we should bear in mind that fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of expression/speech, are causes worth fighting for. Millions lost their lives in the defeat of fasscism and authoritarianism. Don’t give in to reactionary idiots in our own backyard.

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bob, Ivan, heather leith, Helen Thomas, Humphrey Cushion and others. Humphrey Cushion said: Twittersphere Fear… : #TwitterJokeTrial #IAmSpartacus #HoundingofBaskers […]

  6. Very good post. I am always nagging my son to be very careful about what he puts on the internet and trying to make him realise the dangers. How awful that a teenager has to keep thinking in terms of what might be uncovered about him in the future and that his very youth could be held against him.

  7. Great post, seems like the printed press and government see all this free speech as a threat and are determined to throw a spanner in the works. I find it hard not to respond to some of the more outrageous (right wing) tweets but it seems I’m going to have to refrain..

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