Update: I misread the article -- the same 17-y-o later sent some pretty dreadful threats to the Olympian in question: "i'm going to find you and i'm going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick," etc. My initial reading was that these were other peoples' harrassing tweets. #readingcomprehensionfail

Police in Weymouth, Dorset, England came to the home of a 17-year-old boy and arrested him, because he had retweeted an unpleasant sentiment to an Olympic athlete. The offending tweet? "You let your dad down i hope you know that." (This was a pretty dickish thing to tweet, as the athlete in question had previously dedicated his performance to his recently deceased father). The charge is "malicious communication." The law in question is the Communications Act 2003, Section 127(1)(a) ("a message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character"). It's great to see that the spirit of the Olympics is alive and well: athleticism and international cooperation means that people are only allowed to say nice things or they go to jail. Just about the only thing worse than being a dick on Twitter? Being a loony authoritarian cop who arrests people for being a dick on Twitter. (via /.)

85 Responses to “UPDATED: 17-y-o arrested in England for sending nasty tweet to losing Olympian”

  1. Donald Petersen says:

    Spoiled-rotten Yankee that I am, I’m always taken aback when faced with reminders like this that the ol’ First Amendment isn’t a universal thing, even in what we still consider The Free World.

    And it’s not always a comfortably unthreatened principle here in the States, either.

    • Stooge says:

      Are death threats protected by the First Amendment?

      • Tribune says:

        Death threats are not mentioned in the boing boing or BBC article. However they do appear on other coverage of this topic. Might be prudent to point this out before “Are death threats protected by the First Amendment?” which is a relevant question but not obvious given the original post.

        Edit – ok the linked guardian post does mention it. Serve me right for having multiple different articles on the same topic open at once and not remembering which is which

        • anneymarie says:

          It might be prudent to read an article before commenting on it.

          • ChicagoD says:

            In fairness, it might be prudent to mention the most material fact of the case in the post. If I have to do significant additional research to have any idea what the real story is, what’s the point of posts? Just a giant misdirection?

          • Donald Petersen says:

            Yeah, now that I go read to the bottom of the article, the death threats are mentioned.  Those would be “the offending tweets,” when it comes to the arrest.

            Tsk tsk.

  2. RedShirt77 says:

    The arrest is out of line, but I would support a temporary forehead tattoo that said, “I am a ass munch”

  3. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    Incidentally, does arresting somebody qualify as a ‘message of menacing character’ for the purposes of the act?

  4. robertdee says:

    Your telling of the story isn’t strictly true. I think the offensive tweet that led to the arrest was  ”i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick”. I’m not saying arresting him was the right response, just that you should tell it like it is…I mean, like it sounds, baby.

  5. Stooge says:

    Cory, is his first tweet really the one you think he was arrested for, or did you miss the death threats in his follow-ups?
    For example:
    “i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick”
    or
    “i dont give a shit bruv i’m gonna drown him and i’m gonna shoot you he failed why you suporting him you c**t”

  6. Dr_Wadd says:

    Some sites are reporting that he threatened to drown Daley in a different tweet, although the BBC which I’ve just checked isn’t mentioning that, so I’m not sure how reliable that is. If this guy only tweeted about the father then, while dickish, it certainly doesn’t warrant an arrest, a threat on his life is something different (although I do strongly suspect that if it were directed a general member of the public the police wouldn’t have been so quick to act, nor so heavy handed).

    Edit: I’ve just noticed that The Guardian article mentions the other threats as well, skipped over entirely in this BB article. I have been wondering whether some media outlets have been leaving out certain details in order to make the story seem something it isn’t quite. I do hope that BB hasn’t succumbed to this temptation as well.

    • Charles H. says:

      “i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick”

      “i dont give a shit bruv i’m gonna drown him and i’m gonna shoot you he failed why you suporting him you cunt”

      “do you want me to come to your fucking house now with a rope and strangle you with it”

      Yeah, I’m likewise going to go out on a limb and guess that the arrest has more to do with the death-threats than it does with just being a dick.

      • BombBlastLightingWaltz says:

        Acute post puberty psychosis, acting and feeling all man like.  

        Hey, the kid was a late bloomer.

    • Stooge says:

      The Guardian article Cory links to includes at least two death threats.

      • EH says:

        Yep, and it’s completely realistic to think that some 17yo twerp is going to drown an Olympic swimmer.

        • anneymarie says:

          Oh, so death threats are investigated based on whether the target seems weak enough? Good plan!

          Also: he threatened other people too.

          • ChicagoD says:

            Most countries require some credibility to a “threat” before it is treated as a threat. It isn’t the strength of the proposed victim, but rather the possibility that the person might actually be in a position to carry out the threat.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            And athletes, like other public figures, are sometimes attacked by their detractors.

          • Navin_Johnson says:

            @ChicagoD:disqus  I know we’re both Americans and everything should be exactly as it is here, but other countries get some leeway in choosing the interpretation of their own laws.

          • EH says:

            Uh, I don’t know if that’s the exact criteria, but yes, the idea is to evaluate whether a given threat is credible. “I’m going to kill my boss if he wears those shoes again.”

        • Stooge says:

          Is it really your contention that the multiple death threats issued by this moron were so implausible that he was arrested for a different tweet wherein he was merely impolite?

        • agthorn1981 says:

          Step 1 – hit swimmer over head
          Step 2 – push unconscious swimmer into body of water
          step 3 – profit?

          • EH says:

            Uh, that’s not exactly “drowning.”

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Uh, yeah, that is exactly “drowning”. There’s not a Manual of Style that says that you have to hold your conscious victim underwater while kicking and screaming. In fact, knocking people out (physically or by drugs/alcohol) and pushing them under is a fairly classic tactic of drownology.

      • robbersdog says:

         Yeeees, the article linked to does, but Corey’s post explicitly says the kid was arrested for saying Daley let his dad down. This just doesn’t seem to be the case.

        • Phen says:

          It’s not. The plod had to respond when he threatened to drown Daley and stab him in the mouth. He also threatened to beat and kill various other people.

          Until that point they had declined.

          • robbersdog says:

             If this is the case then Corey’s post is not just misleading, it’s actually false and the police did the exact opposite of what he’s claiming. It’ll be interesting to see if this is corrected.

            Do you have a source for this?

          • Stooge says:

            robbersdog, surely a better question would be what the source of Cory’s claim is…

        • Phen says:

          Here we go Robbersdog.

          http://www.allmytweets.net/#rileyy_69It's not pleasant reading.Idiots will be idiots.Ironically I still believe that people can say what they want. You don’t have a right to be ‘not offended’. This kid was a repulsive weirdo and I suppose the police had to check him out but I balance that with the state telling me what to think.The police are still struggling with this. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.Problem with technology it amplifies everything. 30 years ago this would have been the weird kid in the village who you knew to avoid – now he has a global audience.

          • robbersdog says:

            Thank you. Personally I don’t think I’d be bothered by someone like this. Certainly not enough to call the police. But I also realise not everyone will see things like I do and the things he’s saying would be extremely threatening if said face to face. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t say these things face to face, but maybe some people are as bothered, as scared by someone saying these things online as they would be if it was face to face. Should the law be biased toward the people who live online and are used to this stuff or to people who may be new to twitter and more easily affected? How far do you go?

    • Dave Pattern says:

      I read his Tweets last night and there were multiple threats of violence (inc. death threats, a threat to kick a pregnant woman like she was a football, desecrate a grave, rape, etc) as well as stuff that could easily be regarded as incitement to racial hatred.  In the UK, those are classed as possible offences under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 and the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

      My guess is that someone — not necessarily the athlete, as the threats were towards at least half a dozen different people – made a formal complaint to the police and they acted upon that complaint.  Whether or not the threats were really genuine (I doubt it) and whether or not it’s in the public interest to prosecute him (probably not) are different questions.

    • Navin_Johnson says:

      I have been wondering whether some media outlets have been leaving out certain details in order to make the story seem something it isn’t quite.

      That would seem to be deliberate, it’s certainly what happened here. When the ‘tweet in question’ is just an (really) awful tweet about somebody’s recently deceased father, vs. threats of death and violence that were probably the actual reason the authorities were called, this becomes a lot less boner inducing to free speech absolutists and Libertarian types.

  7. ChicagoD says:

    “Just about the only thing worse than being a dick on Twitter? Being a loony authoritarian cop who arrests people for being a dick on Twitter.”

    So, there’s no per se objection to the vague, overbroad law? I mean, the fact of the arrest strikes me as absurd, but once you have that law on your books, what do you expect to happen?

  8. Ah, I never want to correct you, Cory of Awesome, but please see: http://saltandcaramel.com/a-day-of-two-trolls-on-twitter/ which has pics of this young lad’s tweets, where he did indeed only start with disappointment, but it got very out of hand…

  9. Stonewalker says:

    You Britons know that 1984 wasn’t an instruction manual… right?

    Edit: Read Cory’s post, didn’t read article, my apologies.

    • Dave Lloyd says:

      Sadly our lords and masters treat it as exactly that :(

      • milkman says:

        I’d take the English way over the American way any day.

        • Stonewalker says:

           That’s fine and I’ll take the inverse.  Maybe you can answer a question for me if you live in a metro area there – are there really nests of CCTV cameras on every corner?  That’s one thing that would drive me nuts. 

          Not that I’m under any delusion that I’m not under constant surveillance here…  but the cultural effects of just seeing and accepting 10s of 1000s of everyday can’t be good.

    • anneymarie says:

      Did you read the article…?

      • Stonewalker says:

         Nope, unfortunately I fell victim to another one of Cory’s sensationalist jumpy-to-conclusionsy posts.  My bad, will make edits.

        • anneymarie says:

          Just curious and thought I’d give you the benefit of the doubt. The version of events seemed off in this post so I made sure to read and was disappointed in the portrayal. /:

        • BBNinja says:

          It would be this mat…with different CONCLUSIONS written on it…that you could JUMP to!

    • Navin_Johnson says:

      Apparently you haven’t been paying attention to the state of civil rights in the U.S. (despite our free speech absolutism) lately. I would rather pay a fine for death threats, than die in a targeted assassination.

      • ChicagoD says:

        “I would rather pay a fine for death threats or attacks that cross the line on the internet, than die in a targeted assassination.”

        Can’t you do both?

      • Stonewalker says:

         As would I.  I’m A-OK with threats of violence and “FIRE” in a theatre being illegal.  But whenever I read about laws in other countries that utterly violate the principles of freedom of thought/speech, I remember how good  I have it here, and that I need to donate to groups like EFF and ACLU and actually do some activism.

  10. Zagrobelny says:

    Obviously I don’t think that the cops should be monitoring malicious tweeting, but it’s always nice to see a little bitch get a well-earned comeuppance. 

    • ChicagoD says:

      Although following Cakey’s link it looks like he was getting destroyed on Twitter and on the news. Even without an arrest it looks like he was getting opportunity to understand “regret” and “comeuppance.” Well-deserved, I might add.

      • 5onthe5 says:

        Being “destroyed on Twitter” is giving him attention, which is doubtless what he wants.

        • ChicagoD says:

          I don’t know. Reading the tweets in the link, I suspect that he is more of an acceptance kid than an attention kid. Pretty sure he is hating life right now.

          In any case, that’s the marketplace of ideas in action, and his “motivational” techniques have been soundly repudiated and mocked.

        • anneymarie says:

          Given his whining, it doesn’t seem like it.

  11. scatterfingers says:

    Shit like this is why I’m boycotting the Olympics.

  12. robbersdog says:

    http://news.sky.com/story/967096/teenager-held-over-tom-daley-twitter-abuse

    Sky news have screen shots of the tweets. Looks like Murdoch’s cronies are better at fact finding than BoingBoing. It’s a very sensationalist way it’s been reported in the rest of the press, and I’m dissapointed in the BBC. I suppose it just doesn’t sound as good/anti-authoritarian to say ‘teenager arrested for threatening to drown Olympic athlete’.

    My initial reaction this morning was much the same as Corey’s, but I thought I’d better get all the facts before spouting off. I still think an arrest was harsh, as I don’t think Daley would ever have felt actually threatened, but I don’t know that. Maybe he did, who knows.

  13. Matt Jones says:

    It wasn’t a retweet. At least get that part right FFS.

  14. serpentineminer says:

    I would wager, as has been noted, that the “offending tweet” would be one of the more offending ones, not the one you cite.

    Additionally, just how much “trying maliciously to hurt people for no viable reason” do you suppose the law should tolerate?

  15. chris_tweed says:

    This is poor journalism. He was arrested after making serious threats. Please check facts before lashing out.

  16. Wow…just…wow…

    What happened to the British? They were once cool.

    But seriously, in this case it isn’t the law that is flawed, it’s the execution. A police officer is endowed with a certain discretionary power. The fact that someone didn’t exercise their discretion to not arrest this kid is astounding.  

    • ChicagoD says:

      If the law is not flawed what tweet would have been an acceptable basis for arrest? And it should not be a threat, since credible threats are illegal across Europe and North America regardless of whether this law is on the books. In essence, what tweet would be so offensive, indecent, or obscene that arrest would have been OK?

  17. wizardru says:

    I don’t know about you Cory, but I consider someone who tweets: 
     ”i dont give a shit bruv i’m gonna drown him and i’m gonna shoot you he failed why you suporting him you c**t“ and ”do you want me to come to your fucking house now with a rope and strangle you with it“ 
    to be  more than a dick; I consider him to be a potential dangerous individual.

    I also suspect if he’d tweeted this to a female athlete, the reaction might be less dismissive.

  18. 5onthe5 says:

    I would be genuinely interested to know (and this isn’t a weighted question) where exactly Cory and other BB commenters would draw the line on what should / shouldn’t be allowed on Twitter.

  19. OldBrownSquirrel says:

    One of the reasons I have such an avid dislike of sports is that it triggers memories of grade school gym class bullying.  Sports truly brings out the worst in people, whether tweeting trolls or police.  A plague on both their houses!

  20. katkins says:

    Talk about job security…

  21. anneymarie says:

    For those who aren’t reading the linked article:

    Later another tweet to Daley read: “i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky twat your a nobody people like you make me sick”.
    Tweets to other users who criticised his earlier message were spiked with profanity. One read: “i dont give a shit bruv i’m gonna drown him and i’m gonna shoot you he failed why you suporting him you c**t” and another, to a different Twitter user, read: “do you want me to come to your fucking house now with a rope and strangle you with it”.

  22. awesomerobot says:

    Uh, this was probably for the death threat tweets. Not the dad tweet. 

  23. DavidrBrace says:

    Was it not more the threats to Tom’s and other peoples lives that got the old bill interested?

  24. Jens Alfke says:

    I’m so glad I can come to Boing Boing and find factually-based, insightful analysis of controversial stories (instead of knee-jerk journalism that automatically jumps to ideological conclusions.)

    …I’m talking about the comment threads here, of course, not junk like Cory’s post.

    • Stooge says:

      Now, now…

      If Cory didn’t write posts like this then his posts about other people’s confirmation bias wouldn’t be half as entertaining.

  25. Purkit says:

     Its been 10 hours since this was posted. Come on guys, this is making you look terrible! This is journalism at a quality level of Fox news. Your article gives the impression that this guy was arrested for a insensitive tweet when he was really arrested for threatening drowning, rape and kicking a pregnant woman to death.

  26. vonbobo says:

    Maybe Cory is actually a news bot based out of India, edited by someone in Malaysia, and posted by a communist Cuban?

  27. tw1515tw says:

    Finally an apology from Cory. 

    You know the thing about apologies – they should be accepted and welcomed. Always provide a golden bridge for the other person to retreat over. 

    Thank you Cory

    • Dr_Wadd says:

      And the article in The Guardian was rather tricky to follow in places. I had to read through it a couple of times before I was absolutely certain about the flow of tweets.

  28. This pretty much just sucks

  29. Just goes to show how rabid people are about sports. Our society revolves around sports. People are obsessed with sports so much that they do stupid thing like threaten the players if they don’t perform to what people think they ought to.

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