Lately, we have learned of numerous situations in which US citizens have been visited by authorities after posting “terrorist” or “anti-government messages” on social media websites. However, it turns out that such incidents also occur in the United Kingdom as well.
According to the figures of a freedom of information request, hundreds of individuals are prosecuted each year, The Huffington Post reports.
Many of these users don’t mean to appear menacing, but their texts, emails, posts and tweets are seen as a threat by authorities and they end up being arrested.
The figures show that in 2009, 1,263 individuals were prosecuted and in 2011, 1,843 had the same fate. Of the ones who have had trouble with the law for their opinions or their jokes last year, 1,286 were convicted.
Civil rights groups highlight the fact that this represents a serious threat to the freedom of speech.
The latest incident involves a teen that posted a picture of a burning paper poppy on Facebook on Remembrance Day. He was arrested on suspicion of an offense under Britain’s Malicious Communications Act.
In the case of Paul Chambers, who back in 2010 tweeted about blowing up an airport because it was closed down, a judge overturned his conviction two and a half years later.
Initially he was arrested, charged, convicted and fined. In July this year, the judge argued that satirical or rude comments should not be illegal even if they were “distasteful.”
However, not every court shares this opinion. Last month, a 20-year-old student was sentenced to 240 hours of community service for writing that British soldiers should “die and go to hell.”
He quickly removed the Facebook post which he claimed he wrote in anger, but it didn’t matter since he was convicted anyway.
Things aren’t different in other parts of the world. In the US, an ex-marine was arrested for some terrorist Facebook posts and a 16-year-old was visited by the FBI for a YouTube video made for his American Government class.
In India, a man was taken in by authorities after posting a Tweet about the son of an Indian National Congress member.