Twitter racism crackdown by police

It’s a crime with a new name: "Twacism". Twitter’s usefulness as a source of broadcasting instant reactions and opinions has brought with it the potential for abuse. Several recent cases have seen the police quick to pursue and prosecute those who use the social media platform for propagating offensive opinion.

Football has been the focus for the new Twitter controversies. A Newcastle University law student Joshua Cryer, 21, admitted trying to get a reaction from pundit Stan Collymore by assailing him with offensive tweets. The reaction was unexpected. Collymore reported the matter to the police and Cryer was charged under section 127 of the Communications Act, which covers sending grossly offensive messages. Cryer was sentenced to 240 hours of community service.

More shocking still was the case of another student, the 21 year-old Liam Stacey, who pleaded guilty to making racially aggravated comments. His offensive remarks concerned Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton player who suffered a cardiac arrest on the field of play, and came close to death.

Stacey was jailed for 56 days, and the district judge, John Charles told him, "It was racist abuse via a social networking site instigated as a result of a vile and abhorrent comment about a young footballer who was fighting for his life."

It demonstrates that police and courts are willing to act over abuse on social networking sites. Twitter insists that its platform is neutral and unmoderated, but the Department of Culture, Media and Sport pointed out that "The fundamental principle for internet-hosted material is that what is illegal offline is also illegal online."

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