British man jailed for racist tweet

In the wake of a black soccer player collapsing with a heart attack, a British student tweets offensively about him. A U.K. court sends him to jail for inciting racial hatred.

One of many Facebook pages in support of Fabrice Muamba. Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

A couple of weeks ago, a British soccer player collapsed after a heart attack on the field during an English F.A. Cup game.

Twenty-three-year-old Fabrice Muamba's heart stopped for 70 minutes. It seemed as if the Bolton Wanderers midfield player would die.

One man, though, Liam Stacey, didn't seem too perturbed. For he tweeted: "LOL. F*** Muamba he's dead!!! #haha."

It seems that the last hashtag might be on him. For not only has Muamba fought for his life and is winning that fight, but Stacey has been sent to jail.

BBC News reported that 21-year-old Stacey received a 56-day jail sentence after being found guilty of inciting racial hatred.

Muamba is black. And when Stacey's tweet drew the ire of several tweeters, he sent further tweets, in one of which, according to the Huffington Post, he suggested one of his detractors "go pick some cotton."

The court was told that Stacey at first had claimed his Twitter feed had been hacked. He had also then claimed to have been drunk when posting the tweets.

The judge, though, called his comments "vile and abhorrent."

Some might see an interesting comparison between this case and that of another Brit, Paul Chambers, who was prosecuted after sending this frustrated tweet: "Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your sh*t together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"

He was found guilty of "sending by a public communications network a message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character contrary to Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003." He lost his appeal, even though -- to most objective eyes -- he was clearly joking.

In the wake of cases such as Stacey's, it may be that far more instances of hate tweeting come up before British judges. Those judges will, hopefully, be able to discern between the threatening, the hateful and the simply humorous.

 

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