Daley troll won't face charges as Twitter prompts legal debate

Daley troll won't face charges as Twitter prompts legal debate
Justice in the age of Twitter

Tweets in the UK are now covered by the Communications Act 2003 so you could be prosecuted for being grossly offensive in 140 characters or less.

Despite the tweak to the Act, Daniel Thomas, a semi-professional footballer who tweeted homophobic comments about Olympic divers Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield, won't be prosecuted.

The tweet, which suggested a relationship between Daley and Waterfield after the divers came fourth in the synchronised diving event at the London Games, was deemed not grossly offensive enough to bring charges against.

Taking a fence

The reasons being, it was misguidedly intended to be amusing (as "banter"), and Thomas apparently didn't tag Daley or Waterfield in the since-deleted tweet suggesting that it was meant only for his family and friends.

After consultation with the divers, because he took the tweet down quickly apologised, being suspended from the football club he plays for was deemed punishment enough.

Keir Starmer QC, the director of public prosecutions, noted that we can't go around prosecuting every internet troll.

He said in a statement, "If the fundamental right to free speech is to be respected, the threshold for criminal prosecution has to be a high one and a prosecution has to be required in the public interest."

"The Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to send a communication using a public electronic communications network if that communication is 'grossly offensive'.

"It is now established that posting comments via Twitter constitutes sending a message by means of a public electronic communications network. It is also clear that the offence is committed once the message is sent, irrespective of whether it is received by any intended recipient or anyone else."

"Social media is a new and emerging phenomenon raising difficult issues of principle.

"The fact that offensive remarks may not warrant a full criminal prosecution does not necessarily mean that no action should be taken. In my view, the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media."

News Editor (UK)

Former UK News Editor for TechRadar, it was a perpetual challenge among the TechRadar staff to send Kate (Twitter, Google+) a link to something interesting on the internet that she hasn't already seen. As TechRadar's News Editor (UK), she was constantly on the hunt for top news and intriguing stories to feed your gadget lust. Kate now enjoys life as a renowned music critic – her words can be found in the i Paper, Guardian, GQ, Metro, Evening Standard and Time Out, and she's also the author of 'Amy Winehouse', a biography of the soul star.