Twitter airport bomb joker loses appeal, tweeters revolt

A man convicted on a charge related to his joking tweet threatening to bomb a British airport loses appeal. The online world decides that British courts are a joke.

The British are renowned for their sense of humor. It is, indeed, one of the only reliable British exports over the last 40 years. Together with airlines, Carey Mulligan, Cadbury's chocolate.

So you might have thought that even judges in a dreary place like Doncaster, U.K. have the ability to estimate when something might be intended to be a joke.

It seems not. As Paul Chambers, the man who tweeted his frustration about the possibility of a canceled flight , has lost his appeal against what some might think is one of the more putrid convictions of recent times.

Should you have been yourself incarcerated for jestingly suggesting that the TSA's naked screeners can't afford online porn, here is what Paul Chambers tweeted about Robin Hood airport in Doncaster: "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!!"

His tweet was seen by an airport manager, who sent it on to his manager, even though it was not deemed credible.

Naturally, it ended up before the eyes of policemen and Chambers was arrested and charged with "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."

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Oh, of course he was found guilty. But everyone thought that, on appeal, a judge in Doncaster might see the joke. Or, at least, sense.

Perhaps everyone believes that all kittens, in a former life, were hangmen.

For Chambers' appeal was denied and, as if to show just how cheery the British judicial system can be (at least in Doncaster), he was ordered to pay a further 2,000 pounds in prosecution costs.

You might well believe that Chambers' tweet wasn't particularly funny. But, as with so many pieces of communication one encounters, it would surely have been fairly clear to anyone not made of metal and foam that it was meant to be funny.

In order to make the point, his fellow tittering Twitterers decided to repeat Chambers' threat. Over and over again. Using the hashtag #IamSpartacus, they inundated the Interwebs with threats aimed at Robin Hood airport.

I feel readers might be especially moved by a tweet from Dara O'Briain: "Robin Hood! All your base are belong to us! Somebody set up us the Bomb! #iamspartacus #butimalsoanerd"

Some might also feel uplifted by Hugh Miller's tweet: "Anyone else think this #TwitterJokeTrial has been blown up out of proportion? #IAmSpartacus."

You might have imagined that some enterprising journalists might have asked the local South Yorkshire Police whether they would attempt to prosecute all of the more than 5,000 threatening joke-tweeters.

Well, the Associated Press did. The police no doubt thought about it for a vastly long time, balancing the hope of overtime with the possibility that Doncaster might enjoy perhaps the greatest march of the reasonable since Robin Hood himself prowled the local forests, before reportedly replying: "No."

Chambers' lawyer, David Allen Green told the AP his client is mulling his next legal option.

Many might feel that those who truly intend to bomb airports don't tend to tweet about it beforehand. Still, Chambers tweeted that something good has already come out of his latest setback: "While I cannot believe this whole #iamspartacus thing, my dad texting me "Btw, iamspartacus as well" may be the coolest thing ever."

One can only hope that Britain's two-headed new government might decide to intervene in what many feel is a wrong-headed decision. I am sure there are many employees of Robin Hood airport who wish they would. Otherwise, well, who knows?

 

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