Man Convicted Of Sending “Menacing” Tweet Gets Appeal Hearing

In one of the more bizarre legal cases involving Twitter to date, English citizen Paul Chambers is getting a second chance to appeal his conviction over a “joke” tweet.

Chambers was convicted of sending a menacing tweet in May of 2010. And the offending tweet? It read:

“Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!”

Authorities first saw the tweet as a threat, but then downgraded it to just a menace – apparently they couldn’t take a joke, as Chambers swears that’s all he meant by the exasperated tweet.

Chambers has appealed the judge’s decision to give him a criminal record over the tweet, and his legal battles have just gained a barely-there silver lining: three high court judges will consider his case in an attempted appeal.

Part of all of the buzz around this trial is no doubt the questions it poses to the legal system: should threatening jokes be taken seriously on Twitter? Can someone really get a criminal record just for tweeting something?

But it’s also become a mainstream media magnet because of the high-profile celebrities that have come out in support of Chambers, most notably Stephen Fry. Fry attended a benefit to help ease the financial burden of the trial and even tweeted that he would pay Chambers’ legal fees.

The trial and subsequent appeals have raised Twitter’s profile as a communication medium, and the need for the legal system to catch up with technology – and quickly.

Do you think Chambers should be punished for his tweet, or is the legal system overreacting? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

(Gavel image via Shutterstock)