Stuart Hyde, chief constable of Cumbria police who speaks on e-crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said it was right for police to intervene in cases of bullying on twitter.
Recent cases of abusive tweets have sparked a debate over whether the authorities should get involved in policing Twitter.
It makes me ponder whether the people saying them realise quite how disproprtionate they appear to be when arresting unkind (and sometimes genuinely menacing) people who post on Twitter, when there might be a case to focus more effort on high level cyber crime... or indeed trying to figure out where all the drugs keep coming from.It comes after the arrest of a teenager in connection with abusive tweets directed at Olympic diver Tom Daley and the jailing of a student for inciting racial hatred by tweeting about the footballer Fabrice Muamba.
It comes hot on the heels of yet another monster being let back on the streets after threatening to blow up an airport. Except he didn't, by any standard any reasonable person would use. Incredibly, "reasonable person" is a title we can now give to Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge:
In an important High Court ruling the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said that the message posted online by Paul Chambers could not be considered “menacing”.He pointed out that no one who saw the tweet thought it was a genuine bomb threat, and it was not sent to airport staff.
The joke about “blowing the airport sky high” was made in frustration at flights being cancelled because of the snow, and was only spotted five days later by an off-duty security manager.
In the wake of the ruling supporters led by Murray, a comedian, criticised the authorities for pursuing the case.
The endless desire for the police to return over and over again to bullies on Twitter speaks, I believe, to the general inability of the police to modernise and deal with true cyber crime. Although estimates for how much damage cyber crime causes in reality are subject to much debate, its a real problem and there needs to be a real effort to deal with it.After former Home Office advisers warned people to be careful what they wrote on the micro-blogging site, Murray, who had been in court, described the actions as akin to those from the East German secret police.
One of the key issues is that dealing with problems in the online space at a police/justice system level isnt one you can solve with money, unlike many other issues the police deal with on a day to day basis. Dealing with 'online' requires real skills, which many police officers don't have, and are unlikely to learn. Without these skills, you're just fumbling around in the dark and hoping for the best. If you want, you can bring the private sector in to help you, but that just costs yet more money, and there's no guarantee of results (here's looking at you G4S).
Just as with drugs, it's easier to arrest the guy selling them on the street corner than it is to go after the guys producing the problem in the first place. So lets all look forward to another decade of the police flailing wildly at those vicious online criminals who say nasty things to celebrities. And arresting protesters. Because that's pretty easy too.
PS. I have nothing but respect for the average policeman, who does a great job keeping people safe and dealing with day to day criminality. This piece uses the word "police" to describe senior staff of the police services.