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UK Twitter user gets 150 hours of community service for offensive tweet

As Joseph Kelly just found out, a single tweet could land a Twitter user in so much legal trouble. He has landed himself 150 hours of community service and 18 months of supervision.

The 36 years old resident of Castlemilk, Glasgow, got on the wrong side of the law after sending out a tweet about the late Captain Sir Tom Moore. The former British Army Officer entered the limelight during the pandemic when he raised funds for the NHS by walking 100 laps in his garden just before his 100th birthday. He raised £32 million but died after contracting Covid-19. The achievement earned him a knighthood.

However, a day after the death of Captain Moore, Kelly tweeted, “the only good Brit soldier is a dead one, burn auld fella buuuuurn.”

Kelly quickly deleted the tweet, but it was too late. The courts found him guilty of posting a grossly offensive tweet early last year, with the possibility of jail time. The prosecutor relied on a controversial UK law that criminalizes grossly offensive messages on social media. Part of the charge against Kelly was “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, and that did utter offensive remarks about Captain Sir Tom Moore, now deceased.”

Kelly’s defense argues that his tweet did not have much impact because he only had a few followers and was drunk when posting the tweet. They also pointed out that Kelly deleted the tweet 20 minutes after posting it. His defense agent, Tony Callahan, said, “He accepts he was wrong. He did not anticipate what would happen. He took steps almost immediately to delete the tweet, but the genie was out of the bottle by then. His level of criminality was a drunken post, at a time when he was struggling emotionally, which he regretted and almost instantly removed.”

However, the court did not share the same view. Sheriff Adrian Cottam, who presided over the case, said, “My view is, having heard the evidence, that this was a grossly offensive tweet. The deterrence is really to show people that despite the steps you took to try and recall matters, as soon as you press the blue button, that’s it. It’s important for other people to realise how quickly things can get out of control. You are a good example of that, not having many followers.”

Sheriff Cottam described Captain Moore as “a man who had become known as a national hero, who stood for the resilience of the people of a country struggling with a pandemic and the services trying to protect them. His stature and the view of society towards him must be looked at in that light, and therefore any comment likewise. What the accused chose to write, when and how it was said, can only be regarded as grossly offensive.”

The piece of legislation in question is under Section 127 of the UK’s Communications Act. It was meant to handle citizens saying offensive things on the telephone. However, the law has been used to tackle content that can be interpreted as gross offensive on social media.

The law has been used to prosecute social media users that insult, abuse, or harass public figures.

Meanwhile, the infamous law will soon be superseded by the Online Safety Bill, even more extensive. Critics have already pointed out that the new law would still allow people like Kelly to be prosecuted for what society thinks is moral at that point.

Written by HackerVibes

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