Limits on free speech

Dixie


Referees in England
Joined
Oct 26, 2006
Messages
12,772
Post Likes
338
In the Graham Henry biography thread, Davet wrote:

I support free speech to the extent that I would not try to prevent even exteme idiots like holocaust deniers or Islamist extremists, or fundamentalist Christians, telling us what they think - I believe that only by listening to idiocy and extreme political and superstitious views can you be aware of them and take steps to nullify any threat they pose.

I am broadly in agreement with this, and thought the Norwegians did extremely well to avoid giving the impression of bias by attempting to muzzle (or at least, not to broadcast the ranting of) Anders Breivik. After yet another British disappointment in the Olympics, a seventeen year-old was arrested for sending a nasty Tweet to a British competitor. I find myself disgusted by the Tweet itself, but more disgusted by the fact that the sender was arrested. Several of my colleagues now look at me as though I were Zaphod Beeblebrox having unveiled the second head.

Do others have a view about whether being nasty to other people should be a criminal offence - and if so, where (if anywhere) to draw the line? Should I be allowed, for instance, to express the view that Tony Blair was at the same time both the worst British post-war Prime Minister and the best political self-promoter? Or is that view just too nasty to be promulgated, and worthy of a prison sentence by virtue of being likely to upset poor old Tony?
 

Lee Lifeson-Peart


Referees in England
Joined
Mar 12, 2008
Messages
7,555
Post Likes
821
Current Referee grade:
Level 7
In the Graham Henry biography thread, Davet wrote:



I am broadly in agreement with this, and thought the Norwegians did extremely well to avoid giving the impression of bias by attempting to muzzle (or at least, not to broadcast the ranting of) Anders Breivik. After yet another British disappointment in the Olympics, a seventeen year-old was arrested for sending a nasty Tweet to a British competitor. I find myself disgusted by the Tweet itself, but more disgusted by the fact that the sender was arrested. Several of my colleagues now look at me as though I were Zaphod Beeblebrox having unveiled the second head.

Do others have a view about whether being nasty to other people should be a criminal offence - and if so, where (if anywhere) to draw the line?

Lo and behold!

Frankie Boyle being nasty

FB is no stranger to controversy in terms of his material but I wouldn't consider either the Rebecca Adlington jokes or the the earlier jokes about Katie Price's son criminal - that's not the same thing as saying I find them funny of course.

Sometimes FB makes me laugh - a lot!:biggrin:
 

Davet

Referee Advisor / Assessor
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
12,731
Post Likes
3
Or that Tony Blair is co-responsible for an illegal war, and thus the deaths of 10s of thousands of innocent people?

Being nasty to people is a big part of having an active democracy. Unlike, say - for example Russia, where being nasty to Putin is liable to have you arrrested on trumped up charges of various nature and put away. It reeks of the old days when any criticism of "the party" was clearly only possible if you were insane, and therefore critics were locked up in "santoriums" for their own good.

Offence can only be taken, not given. If some comment offends you then either it is offensive because it is linked to a truth - so live with it; or it is not based in truth and can simply be refuted and mocked mercilessly.
 

Toby Warren


Referees in England
Joined
Nov 8, 2007
Messages
3,431
Post Likes
57
My understanding is that the Daley arrest came as a result of a 'threat to kill' not a nasty message. I thought that threats to kill have always been illegal?
 

SimonSmith


Referees in Australia
Staff member
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
8,894
Post Likes
989
Offence can only be taken, not given. If some comment offends you then either it is offensive because it is linked to a truth - so live with it; or it is not based in truth and can simply be refuted and mocked mercilessly.

Trite nonsense Dave. Offence needs to have a taker, but it can also have a giver.

Toby's analysis is broadly right. It wasn't the Daley tweet that got him lifted, it was the other threats, which are a breach of law.

Free speech is not an absolute right, and carries with it responsibilities as well as rights. If your tweet would have gotten you arrested had you stood on a table in public and shouted it at a crowd, then fair enough.
 

Davet

Referee Advisor / Assessor
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
12,731
Post Likes
3
A Dorset police statement said: "A 17-year-old man was arrested by Dorset
Police officers in the early hours this morning at a guesthouse in the Weymouth
area on suspicion of malicious communications. He is currently helping police with their inquiries."

Police said the teenager was given a harassment warning before being bailed
pending an investigation into other communications on his Twitter account.

Since when, and why, has "malicious communication" been an offence?
 

Davet

Referee Advisor / Assessor
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
12,731
Post Likes
3
Free speech is not an absolute right,

Yes it is - for the simple fact that it can only be prevented by force.

If your tweet would have gotten you arrested had you stood on a table in public and shouted it at a crowd, then fair enough.

Other than the very limited issue of falsly and maliciously crying fire in a crowded theatre as the exemplar I can think of no words that should mean arrest would follow. And even then "falsly and maliciously" would need to be proven, as opposed to say falsly and mistakenly.

In this case the Police spokesperson said it was for "malicious communication", not uttering death threats. And in fact death threats are issued every day in millions of homes - and unless there is reason to believe that they are serious then no action is ever taken. So lets not be over-egging that pudding or we are all in deep doodoo.

I might intend to offend someone, but if they don't take offence then there is none. And in any case I reserve absolutely the right to try and offend anyone I damn well want to.

What possible restriction on free speech - other than the theatre type scenarios mentioned - can possibly be justified?
 

Taff


Referees in Wales
Joined
Aug 23, 2009
Messages
6,939
Post Likes
378
He makes me want to give him a good smack. :chair:
And 20 years ago, that's probably exactly what he would have had. Before Twitter / Facebook / internet forums etc, if he'd have said exactly the same thing in his own house, he would probably have copped a clip around the ear (at best) from his dad and that was the end of it.

These days, it's the easiest thing in the world to create a story out of absolutely nothing - and of course the media love to do just that. The offender is a 17yr old youf apparently - for all I know he may be a decent bloke by nature, but just lacks social skills ie he doesn't know what's humerous and what isn't; doesn't know when to shut-up and when to speak-up etc etc etc. Give that socially unskilled 17yr old access to the internet and there's bound to be a bun fight - its called the "world wide web" for a reason.
 
Last edited:

4eyesbetter


Referees in England
Joined
Oct 31, 2010
Messages
1,320
Post Likes
86
As I understand it (only a lawyer of the barrack-room variety) the intent of the Malicious Communications Act was to make explicitly illegal a number of things that would have been offences had they been done in person, but which were not explicitly offences if they were done at a remove; sending death threats, as in the Tom Daley case, is certainly one of these. If you walk up to him on the street and seriously tell him that he's going to die, you get done for threatening behaviour; if you send him a letter telling him that you get done under the Malicious Communications Act, and the Act was also far-sighted enough to cover electronic communication, so tweets are covered as well.

His right to free speech ends when it begins colliding with the right of Tom Daley to go about his business without fear that some nutter actually wants to do him harm. The police and CPS appear to have this about right - there's certainly a reason to investigate it and find out what was going on (because intent is much harder to judge with the written word than with actual speech); they've now determined that it's just an idiot sounding off, so they've given him a scare without wasting time with a prosecution.

Of course now you get into issues of scale, but the principles that it shouldn't be legal to harass or threaten someone, and that in this instance there may have been a case to answer are quite sound. And some of the objections that I've seen to this particular application of the law could equally apply to other applications - no, it's not feasible to investigate every single other possibly-threatening tweet, but neither has it ever been it feasible to investigate every letter, telephone call, or incident on the street, and that doesn't undermine the principle of the law either.
 

Davet

Referee Advisor / Assessor
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
12,731
Post Likes
3
Where has the notion that death threats were issued come from?

All I've seen is that he said Daley had let down his dead father - stupid and pointless and irrelevant as the comment may be, where does it equate to a death threat?
 

crossref


Referees in England
Joined
Sep 14, 2009
Messages
19,734
Post Likes
2,248
I don't think people have the moral right to engange in cyber-bullying under the guise of 'free-speech'.

I am not referring to Tom Daley I haven't read the tweets on that - but to more humdrum examples of children every day being persecuted to the point of collapse and even suicide by overwhelming and constant cyberbullying. Kids who can't turn on their phone or facebook without an avalanche of insults, kids who are victims of 100s of spoof sites aiming at them, or appearing to be by them. If you have never seen what happens -- go and research it.

It's quite bollocks to say 'offence must be taken it's never given' or to prize the bullies right to 'free speech' over and above the victim's rights to enjoy life unmolested.
 

Davet

Referee Advisor / Assessor
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
12,731
Post Likes
3
Toby

Uttering threats and bullying is not the same as giving offence, I may give offence by referring to the old saw about the Welsh as praying on their knees and preying on their neighbours. If that was true then those who would be offended might be better advised to simply deal with it. Since it isn't true, or no more true than it is of the Scots or the English, then it should simply be ignored, or mocked if action is felt to be needed. I may try to be very offensive by insulting, in vile terms, something you hold dear and sacred - but if you fail to take offence then I have failed to be offensive. So "offence" is up to the receiver.

For the sake of clarity I don't equate death threats, etc., with the right to freedom of speech - though I would suggest that unless they are seen to be realistic they are better ignored than acted upon - and I am happy for there to be an investigation to establish the seriousness.

What striokes me as rather silly is for, as I understand it, the police to break into a 17 year old's lodgings at 2:45am in order to carry out an arrest. far simpler, and cheaper surely, to send an officer over later in the day to have a chat in the first instance. The police reaction seems to be more concerned with responding to public outrage than to any realistic threat, and to teach the young pillock a bit of a lesson. Which isn't their job. The day we accept that heavy handed policing tactics is a valid and acceptable respionse to a matter of this nature is the day we welcome in a Police state. It is at one with the use of terrorism laws against 82 year old Walter Wolfgang for heckling Jack Straw at the 2005 Labour party conference.
 

Toby Warren


Referees in England
Joined
Nov 8, 2007
Messages
3,431
Post Likes
57
So we are in agreement.

Death threats warrent some action (agreed a 3am knock does seem way OTT).
Silly comments re letting people down dealt with by public reaction.

Not sure there's much to see here then move along please.......:horse:
 

Davet

Referee Advisor / Assessor
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
12,731
Post Likes
3
Silly comments re letting people down dealt with by public reaction.

Indeed - one of the points of free speech is to allow the extremists to declare themselves, and let the public see who they are and react to them accordingly.

Evil words can lead to evil deeds, but far more so when they are uttered in dark and secret places - exposure to daylight and critique generally robs them of their power.
 

OB..


Referees in England
Staff member
Joined
Oct 7, 2004
Messages
22,952
Post Likes
1,816
Like a lot of Kiwis, he will say what he thinks, and not giving a monkeys whose feelings might be injured, or toes might be trod on in saying it. He doesn't call a spade a spade, he calls it a shovel!!!
And in any case I reserve absolutely the right to try and offend anyone I damn well want to.
A philosophy of life that says “I don’t care what anyone else thinks or feels” is one I reject. Too much of life depends on working with other people.
 

Davet

Referee Advisor / Assessor
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
12,731
Post Likes
3
A philosophy of life that says “I don’t care what anyone else thinks or feels” is one I reject. Too much of life depends on working with other people.

Quite.

But one can still select anybody one wants to and try and offend them - that's not the same as saying I will always try to offend everyone.
 

SimonSmith


Referees in Australia
Staff member
Joined
Jan 27, 2004
Messages
8,894
Post Likes
989
Indeed - one of the points of free speech is to allow the extremists to declare themselves, and let the public see who they are and react to them accordingly.

Evil words can lead to evil deeds, but far more so when they are uttered in dark and secret places - exposure to daylight and critique generally robs them of their power.

One suspects that history may take issue with that statement
 

Cave Dweller

Facebook Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2012
Messages
339
Post Likes
0
Current Referee grade:
Select Grade
Remember freedom is never given only taken.
 
Top