Two years ago Paul Chambers, a Twitter user in England, tweeted his frustrations about the closure of the airport in Nortern Ireland was scheduled to fly into:
“Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”
As this article in the Guardian summarizes,
A week later he was arrested by five police officers, questioned for eight hours, had his computers and phones seized and was subsequently charged and convicted of causing a menace under the Communications Act 2003.
Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 provides that “[a] person is guilty of an offence if he sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.” This case appears to boil down to whether or not the tweet was truly menacing, and by whom, and under what standard, its menacing character should be judged.
Chambers insists he meant it as a joke. There is also no evidence that anyone actually took the tweet to be a credible threat. In fact there is evidence that the authorities themselves did not take it to be a credible threat. However because there was the possibility that it could have been taken as a threat, thus far the conviction has held.