Racist Twitter troll jailed

A British student has been jailed as a result of offensive Twitter comments made during an argument about a black football player. Unlike some previous incidents, the case involved longstanding laws that weren’t specifically introduced to cover online activity.

Liam Stacey, a 21 year old student, made the comments about Fabrice Muamba, a Bolton Wanderers player who collapsed during a game with heart problems and was taken to hospital in a critical condition. He has since regained consciousness but is still being held in intensive care.

Stacey first mocked Muamba’s possible death, then responded to critics with a serious of racially-related insults. After complaints by other users to the police he was charged with incitement to racial hatred. He pleaded guilty and was today sentenced to eight weeks’ in prison.

The judge in the case accepted that Stacey had made the comments while drunk and now regretted his actions, but said this was no excuse.

Stacey’s conviction has reawakened the debate about the limits of free speech, particularly among those who post from behind the security of an online account. As with the conviction last summer of two British men who made Facebook posts ruled to be intentionally encouraging others to take part in riots, the case was based on laws that apply in all cases.

However, some Brits have been convicted under a specific law, the Communications Act of 2003, for “sending malicious communications that were grossly offensive.” These include another British student, Joshua Cryer, who was recently convicted and given a community service sentence for posting Twitter messages aimed at Stan Collymore, a retired black football player.

In 2010, Colm Coss was sentenced to 18 weeks under the same law for posting “trolling” messages on Facebook memorial pages for deceased people. He was recently accused of having resumed such behavior but refused to respond to the claims when featured on a documentary hosted by presenter Richard Bacon, himself a victim of online abuse.

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16 Responses to Racist Twitter troll jailed

  1. Good. Honestly the internet is filled with too many asshats whom think just because it's "the internet" they can do and say what ever they want without consequence. Bull, I say. You'd have consequences if you went up to someone face to face and said those things, why not be held accountable for online iterations?

  2. Apparently freedom of speech doesn't extend to the Internet…or Britain…Since when in recent times do people get jailed for what they say? Unless of course you are on Communist Russia…or China…

    • Actually, citizens of the United Kingdom do have the right to free speech — however, that right does not extend to threatening, abusive, or racist speech. Hope that helps, since I'm sure you don't actually *know* anything about the right to free speech.

      • You don't have to agree with what the kid is saying, but you should defend his right to say it. Censoring any part of speech does not make it free speech. It makes it censorship. I'm not sure how you managed to confuse the two.

        • So, then, you would defend the right of someone to yell "Fire!" in a movie theater? Good too know, where's your closest theater?

  3. Cyhiraeth,
    Whilst I write this not knowing what exactly was said (I'd be interested to read it before forming any solid opinions either way), I will say that there's a fine line between "free speech" and "inciting racial hatred".

    At the risk of invoking Godwins law, would you consider it "free speech" if I were to go around saying that I '100% agreed with Hitlers policies towards Jews and gays' or that 'the KKK have a point about lynching black people'?

    • I believe you should have every right to say that. Because I don't agree with what someone might say, doesn't mean I don't think they have the rights to speak it. Free speech should apply to all people and view points. When you start limiting what one person can say, you begin walking the fine line of censorship. Censoring the internet would be disastrous. We might as well go back to burning books.

    • Yes, that is free speech. I don't have to agree with what you are saying, but I will defend your right to say it. Poor example.

  4. The problem is 'freedom' of speech isn't freedom at all, it's 'you are free to say whatever you want, as long as you do not offend other races, sexual orientations, genders or anyone with a high position in the government'. That is not freedom of speech at all, it is censoring. While I condone none of the aforementioned uses of freedom of speech, I believe it should be up to each individual to decide if they want to use whatever language they see fit. The KKK and Neo Nazis openly are offensive towards their respective group of hatees, but they are protected under freedom of speech, a kid blabs off online, and get to prison time. Does that make ANY sense?

    • It does but not in a good way. Do you want to prosecute a national group with lots of time money and volunteers? Or just one drunk kid, with absolutely no community support because he was obviously stupid.

  5. I all for people being punished for their actions but think it's a step to far being jailed for writing something as a drunken idiot. Based on this precidence thousands should be jailed every day lol!

  6. Hiding behind 'free speech' is pathetic. You can have whatever god you want, opinion of the government etc. but when you start being openly racist then you should go to jail and think about what an idiot you are. I'm not sure 8 weeks is justified though for a single incident of drunkenness.
    The laws do need looking at though, I was watching a documentary recently about it and the laws they're using are too out of date.

    • Why? Who are you to tell someone what they can and cannot think? Sending someone to jail for what they think is a worse offense to humanity than racism and racists. You are in essence trying to tell someone what they think. People should be free to believe what they want, even if such beliefs are racist, and they should be allowed to openly express those beliefs. Any type of censoring of that is not freedom.

  7. As long as it's not undermining someone else's rights, everyone should be able to say what they want, without fear of persecution.

    The first part of that sentance is the important part.

  8. I'm all for free speech in that anyone can say what they want to say.

    However, if you say (or write) anything that can be construed as asinine or just generally boneheaded, the rest of us have the right to call you out.