You may remember a few years back not that long after 9/11 a man was arrested for ‘quipping’ that there was a bomb in his luggage and since then successive arrests and police presence has saw the end to any kind of terrorist-related jokes (or in fact clothing!) within spitting distance of an airport, but not within the wider world. Until now!
Frustrated by the closure of the Doncaster based ‘Robin Hood’ airport a certain Paul Chambers posted on Twitter: “Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your s**t together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!” He was shortly arrested by police under the Criminal Law act of 1977 (which presumably has something in it about threatening to blow up airports!).
In true fashion (when it comes to terrorist threats) it wasn’t just a matter of explaining the frustrated joke, following the arrest ensued six hours of questioning followed by the confiscation of both his PC and his iPhone to check whether or not there was any evidence of any plotting.
However quite possibly the most interesting thing about this story is that Paul’s Tweets were in fact private, and although he had a relatively wide following of 769 only that select few could see it — and that includes the Police. So in fact it was a member of the public who, concerned that Paul may have in fact been serious, called up the Police and alerted them to the ‘threat’.
Mike Morton, director of Robin Hood airport, said: “The safety of our passengers and staff is of the highest importance to us and we work closely with South Yorkshire police to make sure that any kind of unacceptable behaviour is dealt with immediately. We simply will not tolerate such activity.”
But surely this is a bit stupid? Firstly presumably it was someone that knew Paul, however loosely, and I find it amazing that anyone would suspect someone they know of being a terrorist, especially on such little information! Also you’d have thought that it would have just taken 10 minutes of questions, and explanation, and a quick look on his computer to realise that the remarks were not serious?
But apparently not, it would appear that we are a nation still held tightly in the grip of fear that surrounds terrorism, and that at times we are prone to overreact. It would also seem that the internet has lost yet another chunk of its privacy, as this is the first arrest prompted by a tweet. It makes you wonder that if Doncaster were like Darlington in having a resident Twitter Tweeter, would they then be tweeting about this?
The South Yorkshire Police statement put it very succinctly when they said: “We advise members of the public to use such sites appropriately, as they are easily accessible to the public and any inappropriate use could cause unnecessary concern and lead to comments being reported to police.”
So next time you tweet, update your status on Facebook or have a good rant on your blog remember that out there, somewhere, someone is watching, and they are probably paranoid!
Via – Guardian