5 thoughts on “DISCUSSION: Jail Time for Internet Trolling

  1. In this case, I think the judge made the right decision. As I understand it, the UK’s incarceration system is much more geared to rehabilitation than is ours (which is more punitive in nature). This may be the catalyst that finally gets this man the help he so obviously needs.

    Had the incidents occurred in the ‘states, however, the courts probably would have settled for bankrupting him, leaving him even more desperate and alone. That’s a recipe for a much bigger disaster.

    1. As far as the Free Speech issues that inherently go along with this; the man directly targeted people with speech designed to cause distress — verbal terrorism, if you will. That is not, and has never been protected speech under the 1st Amendment.

      Organizations like the WBC get away with it by attaching it to religious beliefs and peaceable assembly, as well. Then again, the WBC is on the UK’s no-fly list and is considered by many outside the ‘states to be a potentially dangerous fundamentalist organization (just like Al-Qaeda is).

      1. The problem with your analysis is that the guy went to jail. You can’t go to jail in America for free speech. You are aiming in the right direction when you say that speech I aim at you is not protected. I have NO first amendment rights between you and me, My first amendment rights are strictly between me and the government.

        But you can’t send me to jail. You could sue me for intentional (or negligent) infliction of emotional distress and get monetary compensation from me but you can’t jail me.

        So, what has happened here is that he government has stepped in to jail someone for an act that, in America, could not rise to a criminal offense.

        WBC doesn’t get away with what they do because of religious beliefs, they still get away with it because of a pure free-speech analysis. They have been limited, however, by using “Time and place” constraints which the courts have long deemed reasonable. Time and place constraints are what allow cities to require permits for political demonstrations and the ability to have ‘disturbing the peace’ statutes on loud noises after a certain time.

        So, the question in America is – “is there really such a thing as verbal terrorism” I would say no, simply because we have drained the word terrorism of any meaning. (I once worked somewhere where someone jury-rigged the thermostat in a desperate attempt to get the air conditioning working. Another coworker dubbed that person a “thermostat terrorist”.) We have always held in America that the answer to offensive speech is more speech.

  2. Since he’s in the UK I can’t really say whether incarceration is a good call. It would not be a good call here. A hefty fine and probation with the stipulation that he not go near or possess any internet equipped device seems fairer.

  3. I think the guy demonstrates some mental illness. In America we could restrict him from internet access or commit him for his mental illness as a danger to others. We couldn’t jail him and jail wouldn’t be appropriate here.

    But then, jail isn’t appropriate for the millions of American prisoners whose sole crime is chemical addiction either. So what the hell. One more won’t matter.

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