Scottish Bill Would See Jail Time For Sending Threats Via Twitter

It all started with football (or soccer, for us North Americans), as so much in the UK does. A Scottish bill that is currently going through parliament would see to it that people posting threatening or offensive messages on Twitter would see a maximum jail time of up to 5 years.

According to the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill covers online hate crime, which encompasses abusive or offensive tweets sent out on Twitter. These comments would carry the maximum jail term, which would be raised from six months to five years.

This bill was proposed in response to attacks made on the Celtic football team manager and other associated individuals. They received suspected letter bombs in the mail after threatening messages were posted to Twitter.

The bill may be passed in to law as soon as the end of the month.

Twitter has been used in the past for nefarious purposes. Earlier this year, a football player, Lisa Swanson, had to make a public apology for comments that she made about the Celtic team and its manager. And recently, a Welsh footballer sued Twitter and its users for retweeting his name in association with super-injunction information.

Despite the clear legal no-man’s-land that is Twitter today, the critics of this proposed bill say that it has been pushed too quickly through parliament, and more serious studies of Twitter and the negative comments made on the network need to be done. However, if the law doesn’t catch up with Twitter soon, we may see more unnecessary detainment by government officials of those using Twitter for freedom of expression, not sectarian hate speech.

What do you think? Is 5 years in jail too much for someone tweeting hate speech? Or does the punishment match the crime?