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Twitter joke trial: how the wrong tweet can get you in trouble with the law

Twitter is the social network of the moment – the only true rival to the powerhouse that is Facebook. It is hugely popular with members of the public and celebrities alike.

Since being launched in 2006, this wholly unique social network has gone from strength to strength – thanks in no small part to its popularity amongst public figures.

But the dangers of using Twitter have been brought to the front of people’s minds this week, as Paul Chambers goes to the High Court to appeal against a conviction for a tweet.

Threatening Tweet

In 2010, Chambers was planning to go on holiday with his girlfriend. But he picked a week when Robin Hood airport in Yorkshire was closed because of the snow.

And like any faithful Twitterer, he tweeted about it, saying : “Crap! 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!”

Sound innocent enough, just a bit of light-hearted humour? The police didn’t think so, and arrested him at work, seized his phone and computer, and charged him under the 2003 Communications Act.

It seems like a bit of an overreaction, and Chambers is now appealing against the conviction at the high court. But Chambers is not the only person to get into trouble with the law for tweeting.

US deportation

Leigh Van Bryan was due to go on holiday with a friend to LA. Being very excited about the trip, Van Bryan tweeted: “Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America.”

Again, it sounds innocent enough. But on landing in LA, Van Bryan was told in no uncertain terms that he was a threat to US security. He and his friend were promptly put on a flight back home.

Contempt of court

Controversial footballer Joey Barton was in hot water last week, after using Twitter to comment on the upcoming court case involving John Terry and Anton Ferdinand.

Barton’s comments were seen by some as being in contempt of court – a crime that is punishable with a prison sentence. But Barton escaped jail when the Attorney General ruled the comments were not contemptuous.