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Teenager Arrested In England For Criticizing Olympic Athlete On Twitter 639

Posted by Soulskill
from the arresting-jerks-on-the-internet-will-keep-police-busy dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A teenager from Dorset, England was arrested for sending a Twitter message to Olympic athlete Tom Daley saying: 'You let your dad down i hope you know that.' Police arrested the 17-year-old boy as part of an investigation into 'malicious tweets' after Daley and his teammate missed out on a medal. Daley's father died from cancer last year. While it is rarely used and the police have not indicated whether they are pressing charges, the Communications Act 2003 s.127 covers the sending of improper messages. Section 127(1)(a) relates to a message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character. Sean Duffy was convicted and sentenced earlier this year for similar comments. I look forward to tens of thousands of arrests across England over the next few days as all public remarks which may cause offense, regardless of their target, are investigated by the law." According to the Guardian, another (since deleted) tweet threatened Daley with drowning, but the law doesn't require threats of violence for an arrest to be made.
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Teenager Arrested In England For Criticizing Olympic Athlete On Twitter

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  • Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:37AM (#40827869)

    "relates to a message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character."

    Isn't it nice to have such ambiguous laws that they could use against anyone whenever they please?

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mordjah (1088481) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:41AM (#40827923)
      Crimethink anyone? How dare you say something mean in public! Arrest him!
      • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

        by gregmac (629064) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:40AM (#40828649) Homepage

        I'm offended by your suggestion that I or someone I know might ever say something mean in public and should be arrested. I demand you be arrested!

      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        This is how we roll on Airstrip One.
      • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by pellik (193063) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:57AM (#40828923)
        You've got to shift your viewpoint a little if you want to understand what's going on around you. The idea that free speech is the most holy ideal is rubbish. Naturally people generally don't want the government to have the power to suppress political speech and the like, but at some point you have to decide things like if it's reasonable to have some right to privacy (like in your own home), and how far these other rights extend when in conflict with each other. This kid chose to reach out into a public place to harass and intimidate someone. If you allow people to be chased out of public light by intimidation and harassment then you wind up with less freedom, as your personal freedoms to pursue things like sports are hindered by those who would hide behind free speech.
        • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:21AM (#40829201) Journal

          I think the kid is a real jerk for saying what he said. Now I'm criticizing him in a public space, as I'm sure many other people are in less kinder words. Should I be arrested, because my criticism might hinder him to pursue posting things on the internet?

          We can have a lot of freedom in life, but the freedom to not be offended is not an option. The fact that what you or I say might hurt someone's feelings is not a sufficient reason to prevent us from saying it.

        • by Squiddie (1942230)
          If you choose to not use your freedom of speech or something or other because some child said mean things about you, then you simply don't deserve to be there. Free speech is supposed to be untouchable because of that.
        • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by readin (838620) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:43AM (#40829473)

          like in your own home

          The kid isn't being accused of breaking and entering. If he were it would be the athlete facing jail time (assuming the athlete took reasonable steps to defend himself).

          You've got to shift your viewpoint a little if you want to understand what's going on around you. The idea that free speech is the most holy ideal is rubbish.

          It is holy from the standpoint that no one should be forced to espouse a view they find repugnant. It is practical because once we start regulating speech the regulators will make it so we criticize them (it might hurt their feelings or upset the social order if the regulators were criticized).

          This kid chose to reach out into a public place to harass and intimidate someone. If you allow people to be chased out of public light by intimidation and harassment then you wind up with less freedom, as your personal freedoms to pursue things like sports are hindered by those who would hide behind free speech.

          If the athlete saw the tweet, it is because the athlete chose to participate in an extremely public forum. It's not like he was just walking around shopping. He was using a medium design to allow as many people as possible to communicate. If you're going to do that you have to expect some flames no matter who you are. As for the larger question of freedom to walk around in public: someone instantly recognizable, or someone hounded by paparazzi might have case to make for restricting to what extent they should be protected in public from speech. That is indeed a difficult topic - but the answer there is not to put a blanket ban on all speech but to figure out a way to tailor the rules for only the difficult cases. The fact that Johnny Depp can't walk around without attracting a mob should not be the basis for regulating interactions between a lesser known athlete and a teenager. In cases where an individual is really annoying, there are other ways for the public to handle it. For example, as a small business owner I could refuse to hire him. What? That's illegal discrimination? Well, at least I could refuse to sell him anything at my store! Wha..? That's illegal too! Well, I suppose I could tell everyone what a jerk he is because... oh yeah, we just made that illegal. Um well I suppose I could - oh H#ll, just arrest him. Why bother with social pressure when it's so much easier to send him to jail?

        • by DarkOx (621550)

          This kid chose to reach out into a public place to harass and intimidate someone. If you allow people to be chased out of public light by intimidation and harassment then you wind up with less freedom, as your personal freedoms to pursue things like sports are hindered by those who would hide behind free speech.

          I am sorry I can't agree. Being a public figure exposes you to a certain amount of comment. What you are really suggesting is that a right to be sheltered from the opinions of others exists. It can't. What if the Athletes mother had said this to him, should she be jailed? Personal I would be much more hurt to hear something like that come from my mom, who I love and respect, and would trust to judge the opinion of my Father much more than coming from some f**k head on Twitter!

          What you are really sugges

      • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Dan541 (1032000) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:31AM (#40829349) Homepage

        In England you can be arrested for "going equipped". For example if you have a crowbar, pliers and other tools in your car they will claim that you are going equipped to commit burglary, you don't actually need to do the crime.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

      by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:46AM (#40828005) Journal
      Most laws are like that. They rely on a "reasonable person" test. would a reasonable person consider the tweet:

      come on then you cunt i'll stick a knife down your fuckin throat now comeback and stop hiding from me

      or

      do you want me to come to your fucking house now with a rope and strangle you with it

      to be grossly offensive? These were sent to other twitterers and it's probably these that prompted the arrest.

      source: (LiberalConspiracy [liberalconspiracy.org])

      • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:54AM (#40828101)

        Those are adequately covered under other laws regarding intimidation and assault [look it up]. "You let your dad down" is not a threat.

      • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:57AM (#40828151)

        Those are threats of violence made in public. Such things are already going to get someone arrested. No need for a new law.

        • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

          by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:05AM (#40828265) Homepage Journal

          If anything the new law means a lower punishment for threats made on the internet, because everyone knows internet tough guys never follow through.

          If they did, I'd beat them up.

        • by nschubach (922175)

          I have friends that would send those tweets to people in jest... I couldn't imagine being arrested because of it.

          • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:36AM (#40828591)

            Maybe that's the problem. Maybe you don't imagine. Not just being arrested, but how other people feel about such things.

            I think we'd be a lot better off if other's feelings were given a little more imagination. Of course what a lot of people don't realize causes upset is somebody whose feelings are being disregarded.

            • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Dunbal (464142) * on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:54AM (#40828877)
              I remember back when being rude was not a crime. But if they make being an asshole a criminal, then we will all end up in jail, because we all have our special moments sooner or later.
            • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by readin (838620) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @10:46AM (#40829523)

              Maybe that's the problem. Maybe you don't imagine. Not just being arrested, but how other people feel about such things.

              I think we'd be a lot better off if other's feelings were given a little more imagination. Of course what a lot of people don't realize causes upset is somebody whose feelings are being disregarded.

              You're saying I don't care about other people?? That really hurts. I do care. I can't believe you would say such a thing about me. You don't even know me!

              What's that number I can call? ;-)

      • by hattig (47930)

        And those are a fraction of the comments he made.

        It probably only took one or two people to report him to the police for them to have to investigate it, find threatening messages posted on a public board, and go an arrest him.

        I also doubt it was the comment to the diver himself that triggered the arrest. It was the tweeter's massive meltdown when he got called out.

      • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Zemran (3101) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:28AM (#40828493) Homepage Journal

        Assault has always been illegal and no stupidity laws were needed by politicians that are more interested in looking like they are doing something that actually taking the time to think about what needs to be done and doing something useful. Assault does require contact, a threat to do something causes harm if the person threatened believes the threat to be real. That is the kicker though, these stupid laws do not require any harm so they are clearly stupid. If I say to you that I am going to kill you when I catch up with you and you know I am joking, under the old laws there was no crime but under the current system it is a crime. If I say that I am going to kick your teeth in and mean it, there is no change. All that is new is that now innocent people can be sent to prison with ease.

      • Taken in context, I'd say no.

        http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/rileyy69-aka-reece-of-weymouth-and.html [blogspot.co.uk]

        That kid has issues, sure, so what. Look at how the so called normal people treated him? Fucking despicable. Who's the bully here? Who is doing *actual* harm to whom? Compare the size of the audience, and how the athlete instantly called the guy an "idiot", while identifying himself as one.

        Bah.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

      by History's Coming To (1059484) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @11:02AM (#40829737) Journal
      It's being misreported by the press. He was reported for the Daley posts, which were distasteful but not illegal. He was arrested because of racially motivated incitement to violence in an unrelated, but recent post. Basically saying Muslims should be attacked, which is most definitely illegal.
  • It's for the good of the children, lest the terrorists win!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:39AM (#40827893)
    He was arrested as he made a threat to kill the athlete, this doesn't mean any charges will be brought against him. I find it more likely that the Police will give him a severe talking to telling him to stop being a troll or face charges being brought in the future.
  • Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:39AM (#40827895)
    The fact that the teenager threatened Daley with drowning is only referenced in a convenient side note. Because that would cause less fear and hysteria than the submitter actually intended to stir up.
  • by fridaynightsmoke (1589903) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:40AM (#40827911) Homepage

    When I heard about this story for the first time on the radio this morning, my reaction was essentially "WTF- they're policing untasteful comments on twitter now?".

    Having read about it a little more, my reaction mellowed significantly. Actual threats (albeit unrealistic) are just about within what I would consider to be the remit of the police. Of course it would depend on what exactly is done by them about it. Simply arresting and cautioning him would strike me as being proportionate. Any kind of sentence beyond perhaps a small (less than £50) fine would probably not be.

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:42AM (#40827927) Journal

    I know Slashdot will cover the free speech part of this "case" which is very valid, but I'd like to point out how absolutely classless this teenager is. Hopefully, he will see the error of his ways.

    • Actually, it appears there were other more threatening tweets sent out related to the tweet in the summary. It is unclear whether the teenager sent them or others did... regardless, I can now see why the police got involved.

      • by adam.bower (61676)
        I can 100% assure you that the kid sent the threatening tweets, he also got a bit upset that he was getting abuse on twitter and that apparently he didn't think that was fair.
    • by MBGMorden (803437)

      While that may well be true, being an asshole isn't (or at least SHOULDN'T be) illegal.

      That said, thought the summary doesn't seem to mention it, I've heard other statements that the tweets included a threat on the athlete's life. If that's the case, its understandable. If he's just being a jerk though, then just ignore him.

  • by StuartHankins (1020819) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:42AM (#40827937)
    In days past, this was solved differently. The kid would've had his ass kicked. People had more respect for each other back then. Nowadays, every coward troll can peep out whenever they're bored or feeling malicious. Is this the future we want?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A future where people can troll each other? Yes. I very much prefer trolling and being trolled to being beaten.
      And we already have laws against the other things like false accusations and threats.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:55AM (#40828113)

      People had more respect for each other back then.

      citation needed, fuckface

    • According to the prophesies told in a book called "1984", Governments subscribing to this religion are doing their best to make its apocalyptic predictions come true.

    • In days past, this was solved differently. The kid would've had his ass kicked. People had more respect for each other back then. Nowadays, every coward troll can peep out whenever they're bored or feeling malicious. Is this the future we want?

      You could also not be part of the twitter/facebook/whatever social site movement. Then you don't see or receive said comments. The real deal is if you interact with the public, you can get _all_ of the public. It's the cost of an open forum.

      • Defining what "acceptable behavior" means in a society is important. Letting any brat who can talk say whatever they want with no consequences is a mistake; not only would the important conversations be overwhelmed by the dullards and trolls of the majority, but the act of trolling in this manner further dumbs down our society as a whole.

        See the movie "Idiocracy" for more examples of our future.
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      No, we should duel each other to death upon every insult like in the good ol' civilised days.

    • by bjdevil66 (583941)

      Yes, that 17 year old is a total loser and should be punished - but not by the government. Instead, it should be by Twitter and his parents (though it seems that they've already failed, so I wouldn't count on them doing much.)

      Maybe some public humiliation (like that brought on by this story) would work?

      • I like the idea of public humiliation. The only problem is that most people are so stupid they'd intentionally do something just for their 15 minutes of "fame". The movie "Idiocracy" (as I mentioned in another post) is coming true, and has been for awhile.
    • by Tr3vin (1220548)
      In the past you had twitter? I think the issue here is two-fold. Yes, people used to have more respect for one another. At the same time, there were those who thought these types of disrespectful things but they didn't have the guts / ability to actually confront the abused party. Digital communication has lowered that barrier, so pathetic little haters can spew this type of garbage and feel good about themselves without any fear of consequence. I don't know that having laws against mean tweets is the right
    • by kiriath (2670145)

      It is not the future we want, it is the future we deserve.

  • ...but the law doesn't require threats of violence for an arrest to be made.

    Nothing requires arrests to be made, but surely threats of violence are by their nature 'menacing'?

    • On the contrary, recent case law has established that threats of violence are sometimes clearly not menacing [slashdot.org].

      Consider: I'm going to force my cock so deep into your throat that I burst your appendix.

  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:43AM (#40827955) Journal
    Even the well-known and strongly libertarian political blogger Paul Staines/Guido Fawkes is being a bit cagey about this one [order-order.com]. Making death threats via a written, public means of communication is about as far from smart as you can get.

    Actually, just noticed that more details of the exchange, including screen-caps of the deleted posts, are available at this blog [blogspot.co.uk] (along with a bit of commentary, so you can make your own mind up.
  • by Dan Dankleton (1898312) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:43AM (#40827961)
    The messages sent to Tom Daley were an example of massive douchebaggery, but some of the other tweets on this guys feed look like they could be bullying and fall foul of all sorts of laws.
  • Sigh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It's worth pointing out that the idiot in question actually apologised to Tom Daley before he was descended upon by a good portion of Daley's 800,000 followers. It's at this point that @Rileyy_69 began lashing out with offensive tweets and is most likely what he's been arrested for.

    Daley himself sparked the whole thing off by retweeting the initial message (which wasn't actually offensive) complete with the sender's username. IMO Daley showed poor judgement there.

    There's a reason "Don't Feed the Trolls" is

    • Daley himself sparked the whole thing off by retweeting the initial message (which wasn't actually offensive)

      And there was me thinking that telling someone they let their Dad down when their Dad died less than a year before was out of line.

      I guess I'm just too sensitive.

    • Re:Sigh... (Score:5, Informative)

      by igb (28052) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:25AM (#40828445)

      "It's at this point that @Rileyy_69 began lashing out with offensive tweets"

      Actually, it isn't. A glance at his history (now, unfortunately, protected) showed that threatening rape, assault on pregnant women, knifing, strangling and the rest was his long-term form. As it happens, Twitter, which is fast becoming a sewer, is full of people talking like that, and it's only because he was foolish enough to get involved in a public figure that it came to attention. But that doesn't make it any less unpleasant. Clearly, he's like that all the time.

  • This is clearly some 17 year old kid shit talking on Twitter. Just a troll. Getting the police involved is ridiculous, unless he was to continue to do it (i.e., harrassment).

    Then again, judging from the other tweets this kid has done, he has some serious problems. Some form of Twitter-Tourettes at least.

    Hopefully the police will drop it, but the experience will cause the idiot to grow up. Haha, unlikely.

    In other news, Jan Moir of the nasty UK "news"paper the Daily Mail can write things about athletes being

    • Given that the guy tweeted a death threat ("I'm going to find you and I'm going to drown you in the pool"), I see the police intervention as needed. Even if the threat wasn't meant seriously, I think every death threat *should* be taken seriously. Saying you're going to kill someone in a public forum is just idiotic whether or not you actually meant it. And even though he deleted the tweet, the threat was still made.

      Let the police investigate and, if this guy was just being an idiot, give him a good scar

  • If this is true, why haven't they arrested Jeremy Clarkson for his comments about Mitt Romney? [jalopnik.com]
    • Re:Jeremy Clarkson (Score:4, Informative)

      by Spad (470073) <slashdot@spad.YEATSco.uk minus poet> on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:54AM (#40828109) Homepage

      Because, if the Twitter joke trial has taught us anything, it's that there is an important difference between comments made in jest and actual, serious threats against someone's well-being.

      Saying "My ideas for the opening ceremony were rejected. I suggested we should crash a burning Jag into Mitt Romney." is clearly not an actual threat to carry out such an action.

      Saying "Come on then you cunt, I'll stick a knife down your fukkin throat now comeback and stop hiding from me" can be more reasonably seen as an actual threat, context permitting.

      The police have overreacted by arresting him, but the accuracy of the reporting of the incident by the media has been astonishingly poor.

    • If this is true, why haven't they arrested Jeremy Clarkson for his comments about Mitt Romney? [jalopnik.com]

      Wait, people take Clarkson seriously?

  • I think the biggest problem was that the tweets were directed at Daley, rather than just being written on the teenager's feed.

    Daley was clearly upset about it which is why he re-tweeted the comment which was then re-tweeted by his followers (including several celebrities).

    Frankly I was very disgusted when I read what the teenager had written. Losing your father when you're only 18 sucks enough without some twat goading you over it.

  • Lesson... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MojoRilla (591502) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @08:58AM (#40828165)
    There is a lesson in all this. Don't use social media. Anything you say there will last forever, and will be used against you.

    And the flip side is that social media doesn't produce anything worth reading anyway. It is generally poorly written junk. If you want to contribute in a meaningful way, work on Wikipedia or write for Examiner.com. Look at me post junk on slashdot...ugh.
    • And the flip side is that social media doesn't produce anything worth reading anyway.

      Well, if you had more interesting friends...

  • *According to the Guardian, another (since deleted) tweet threatened Daley with drowning.

    So, the Slashdot story summary is a completely fabricated pile of shit, with a little explanation on the bottom, after the preceding propaganda already riled up the prejudices and produced a cascade of comments from the usual Salshdot poster who can't even bother to read the story summary, nevermind the story, before commenting in completely contrived, manipulated outrage.

    Congratulations Slashdot, you are playing the same game as Fox News: half-truths intended to incite anger, without relevance as to actual truth.

    Guy threatened someone with violence, guy arrested. Common sense, end of story. Everything else is bullshit.

  • by Michael_gr (1066324) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:07AM (#40828285)
    The guy was arrested but not for said tweet - he was arrested for those other tweets in which he threatened Daley and several other tweeters with murder. Making death threats is NOT free speech whether you are using Tweeter or cut-out letters from a newspaper. The article does mention that and says that "the law doesn't require threats of violence for an arrest to be made". Perhaps that's true but in *this* case he *was* arrested because of the death threats, not because of the abusive nature of his first tweet. The poster is clearly attempting to obfuscate the truth here.

    The one thing that's puzzling is that according to the article the same tweeter first made a disparaging comment, then apologized, then backtracked and threatened Daley and was abusive to others. That's some odd behavior. Was he high? Is he suffering from bipolar disorder? perhaps someone hacked his account? I don't know

  • People should be able to say whatever they want, but that's a really shitty thing to say. Intentionally malicious.

    I think if the law wants to get involved, make the kid spend a few weekends in a hospice center as "community service". Monetary fines and other nonsense just don't matter in cases like this.

  • by gtirloni (1531285) on Tuesday July 31, 2012 @09:21AM (#40828405)
    Check the facts, rewrite the posts that are CLEARLY trying to manipulate you and the readers.
  • for this kind of people UK police should use Hanlon's Razor

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