Twitter joke trial blows up as Paul Chambers appeals conviction

Twitter has been galvanised today by the appeal of Paul Chambers, convicted after making a joke about blowing up an airport. What does the case say about Twitter -- and about Britain?

The Twitter joke trial has been adjourned -- possibly until November. Twitter user Paul Chambers has been in Doncaster crown court today appealing against his conviction for sending a tweet that joked about blowing up an airport.

Twitter has rallied in support of the unfortunate tweeter, who has reportedly lost two jobs and been given a criminal record for tweeting "****! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s*** together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" We take a look at the #twitterjoketrial hashtag used by those following the case on the popular microblogging site.

Tweets from the court have been keeping Twitter posted. Legal expert David Allen Green, who is providing Chambers with pro bono assistance, has been tweeting legal news: "Biggest news so far is that interviewing police officer concluded that it was only a joke for his twitter followers".

The Guardian's Robert Booth has also been in court, identifying an argument that has been a much-retweeted rallying cry for tweeters everywhere: "Court asked to consider how it would deal with Betjeman's 'come friendly bombs, fall on slough' was Sir John a 'menace'?".

Many tweeters can't help but question what the trial means for Britain today. dianthusmed mused, "I would love to know whose interest @cpsuk think they are serving in their ridiculous persistence with the twitterjoketrial."

Comedian Dara O Briain wonders, "Hey, wrt #twitterjoketrial is there any ruling that can properly express what a ludicrous waste of time it is, and give him his life back?" IT Crowd writer and Twitter legend Graham Linehan was hopeful: "Today's the day @pauljchambers gets his life back, hopefully. Here's hoping the judge is tech-literate #goodluckpaul."

Chambers isn't the first victim of a general sense of humour failure regarding airports. But Twitter being Twitter, many showed their support through the medium of extracting the Michael:

ArmyofDave: "Could Robin Hood Airport PR dept give @pauljchambers a job? TBH, I'd never heard of it until #twitterjoketrial. He's put it on the map."
Trinoc_: "Anyone else spot the irony of an airport named after a medieval 'terrorist'?"
squat_betty "Watching my three favourite films tonight: Blow Up, Robin Hood, Airport."
khakipillowslip: "I went to Nottingham and bought an inflatable outlaw, guess what I'm going to do this weekend...."  
hi_robb: "Hopefully the Paul Chambers prosecution will blow up in the CPS's face."
comedyfish: "The #TwitterJokeTrial is taking long than thought because of the 140 character witnesses."  
mrderekpayne "After a long day in court Paul Chambers says he 'could murder a pint', & is promptly rearrested."  
barsteward: "Apparently, West Yorkshire Police want to question the Kaiser Chiefs about their inside knowledge & prediction of a riot."

And finally, this Craver's contribution -- one for the anoraks: "Morrissey wanted for questioning by Skegness police over threat of nuclear armageddon (expected on Sunday)."

We discuss the case on this week's CNET UK Podcast 204 . What do you think? Was the CPS right to prosecute Chambers over what was so clearly a joke? Should we all moderate our behaviour in this heightened climate of fear? Is Twitter a messaging forum or is it an artistic outlet?

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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