Although his conviction was eventually overturned, Paul Chambers found out the hard way that 140 characters or less can cause a whole world of trouble. He wanted to fly to Belfast to spend some time with a woman he had met (through Twitter, incidentally), only to find out that Robin Hood airport (for real, as Ali G would say) in South Yorkshire was closed because of heavy snowfall. Frustrated, he tweeted to his 600 followers (in jest, he consistently maintained): ‘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!!’ A week later he was arrested for having sent a message of a ‘menacing character’ over a public network, which is an offence under the Communications Act 2003. He was tried and convicted; he also lost his job and a subsequent one on account of his offence.

A panel of three judges heard Chambers’s appeal, concluding that there was no evidence upon which he could be convicted: Chambers v Director of Public Prosecutions, [2012] EWHC 2157 (QB, Div Ct). His tweet could hardly be said to have been ‘menacing’ because there was no underlying threat of terrorism – or any kind of threat. The message’s language and punctuation were inconsistent with an intention to be taken seriously, and the twitterer was readily identifiable (not generally a feature of terrorist threats). Obviously ‘a joke, even if a poor joke in bad taste’.

But what if he had left out the exclamation marks?

[Link available here].