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Friday, 2 November 2012

Free speech in knots

This morning comes the news that Matthew Woods, jailed over offensive social media messages, has had his sentence reduced on appeal.  This does not change the fact that he should not have been charged in the first place, let alone convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

The problem, as others have identified, is that the Communications Act 2003 predates the invention of Facebook and Twitter.  It seems to have been developed to deal with telephone messages.  When added together there are over a billion Facebook updates and Tweets every day.  The legislation is therefore unworkable.

Meanwhile, lawyers are left trying to explain to the public why Mr Woods was jailed but Frankie Boyle was not even charged over his tweeted joke about Jimmy Savile going to heaven to have sex with Madeline McCann. In fact the law has been distinctly on Mr Boyle's side of late, with him recovering damages for libel because, he contended, a newspaper accused him of being racist.

I leave the last word to someone else on Twitter, who wrote: "If you're thinking of unfollowing Frankie Boyle because he made a distasteful remark, why were you following him in the first place?"


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