Think before you tweet – student jailed over Muamba tweets
We’ve been here before haven’t we? Not just once but an increasing numbers of times. It doesn’t, however, seem to stop people publishing their dumb and offensive thoughts on Twitter where they can be seen by millions and land them in a lot of trouble.
That’s what has happened to 21-year old student Liam Stacey who has been jailed for 56 days after he posted racist tweets about the Bolton Wanders player Fabrice Muamba after he had a heart attack on the pitch during a Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur on Mach 17.
Stacey was arrested several days after he sent a tweet that read: “LOL, Fuck Muamba. He’s dead”. His first tweet was distasteful, but not racists. It was what came afterwards where the racism entered as he responded from other Twitter users who objected to his initial comment.
He to those comments furthering his original message and directing racist abuse at other Twitter users – some of whom happened to be black men.
Stacey’s tweet was reported to police by Twitter users from across the UK, including follower player and well known tweeter Stan Collymore.
Ironcially, Collymore himself been a subject for abuse from fans – one of whom has in a separate case been given two year community order. In the Collymore case the tweets were also sent by a student. Joshua Cryer, also 21, is a student at Newcastle University. He was spared jail, but has picked up a criminal record after sending the former Liverpool and Aston Villa star a string of abusive tweets.
In Stacey’s case, the Swansea University student, who is studying biology, had admitted the inciting racial hatred charge at a previous hearing last week.
Muamba, who doctors have said was dead for 78 minutes as CPR was given, has since made what is being described as a “miraculous” recovery, but is still in hospital and remains in “a serious but stable condition in intensive care”.
Stacey had at first tried to claim his account had been hacked. He then tried deleting his account, but it was too late the police had contacted him. He found out as others have done so before him that you can’t take tweets back. Once they are out there they are just a screen grab away from becoming a permanent scocial record of what you have said and used against you.
Stacey told police: “I was at the bar when I heard what had happened to Muamba. I don’t know why I posted it. I’m not racist and some of my friends are from different cultural backgrounds.”
At his initial hearing Stacey had been released on bail pending sentencing and had been “ordered not to use Twitter and other social networking sites”.
It is difficult to have any sympathy at all for Stacey. What is impressive in this case is how quickly people rounded on him and quickly the authorities acted, but then as some have pointed out there has been a celebrity involved and there are plenty of instances of abuse on social networks by trolls and over unpleasant people that do not get this kind of notice.
This case comes just a couple of months ago we read about the two friends who were deported from US after posting a tweet about “destroying America”.
We’ve also read about Courtney Love having to pay out $430k in the first US Twitter libel case.
Then, of course, we arrive back at the story of Paul Chambers now better known
as #IAmSpartacus. The 27-year-old accountant lost his appeal in 2010 after “jokingly tweeting” his girlfriend that he would blow Robin Hood airport up.
This stuff isn’t hard – although people insist on making it look so. Social networks are not a platform for idiotic and generally deeply unpleasant comments. It might seem funny at the time, but I’m guessing Stacey isn’t laughing anymore.
Just ask yourself the question: would I say this to someone’s face? If the answer is no, it is not something to share and social media is all about sharing.