Abuse and harassment on Twitter: when does it become a police matter?

THERE was outrage recently when a former Big Brother housemate tweeted a series of vile 'jokes' to Take That frontman Gary Barlow about the tragic death of his baby.  Kenneth Tong made headlines when he sent tweets directly to Barlow's official Twitter account referencing the baby by name and using some of Take That's more popular songs as puns in the messages.

Public reaction was immediate and understandably horrified, with some tweeters even calling upon the UK police to intervene in the matter .  Twitter responded by citing its official policy that some users are more sensitive than others and if you are offended by something, you should simply block that user.

During the Olympics an internet troll tweeted diver Tom Daley - referencing Daley's father who had passed away - and police said they were 'actively investigating' the matter.  No such action was taken in the Kenneth Tong case.

It's a big jump between disliking something you see on a social media site and actually prosecuting someone for it though. I will admit the thoughts of someone going to prison for sending a tweet makes me very uncomfortable - as was the case last March with student Liam Stacey when he racially abused Fabrice Muamba on Twitter; Stacey was sentenced to 56 days in prison.


Perversely, however, I don't think I'd lose any sleep if someone were to, say, ensure Kenneth Tong never uttered another word in public as long as he lives. I'd be ok with that.

What do you think? Do you believe in freedom of speech with no restrictions, or by it's very nature do you believe that same freedom demands a certain level of responsibility? Or perhaps you fall somewhere in the middle - leave us a comment and let us know.


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