When heavy snowfall threatened to scupper Paul Chambers' travel plans, he decided to vent his frustrations on Twitter by tapping
out a comment to amuse his friends. Robin Hood airport is closed, he wrote. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!
Unfortunately for Chambers, the police didn't see the funny side. A week after posting the message on the social networking site, he was arrested under the Terrorism Act and questioned for almost seven hours by detectives who ludicrously interpreted
his post as a security threat. After he was released on bail, he was suspended from work pending an internal investigation, and has, he says, been banned from the Doncaster airport for life.
While it has happened in the United States, Chambers is thought to be the first person in the United Kingdom to be arrested for comments posted on Twitter.
Chambers said the police seemed unable to comprehend the intended humour in his online comment. I had to explain Twitter to them in its entirety because they'd never heard of it, he said. Then they asked all about my home life, and
how work was going, and other personal things. The lead investigator kept asking, 'Do you understand why this is happening?' and saying, 'It is the world we live in'.
The police deleted the post from his Twitter page. He has been bailed until 11 February, when he will be told whether or not he will be charged with conspiring to create a bomb hoax. In the interim, detectives have confiscated his iPhone, laptop
and home computer.
The civil libertarian Tessa Mayes, an expert on privacy law and free speech issues, said: Making jokes about terrorism is considered a thought crime, mistakenly seen as a real act of harm or intention to commit harm. The police's actions seem
laughable and suggest desperation in their efforts to combat terrorism, yet they have serious repercussions for all of us. In a democracy, our right to say what we please to each other should be non-negotiable, even on Twitter.