A man from Swansea was arrested on Saturday 18 March 2012 after posting racially offensive Twitter comments about footballer Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed after suffering arrest during an FA Cup tie. The comments, made by 21 year old biology student Liam Stacey appeared on the Twitter account (@liamstacey9), which was then taken down, but a censored version appears below.
I have never seen such obscene language on the Internet in the whole of my 18 years on the Web. This was not an act of trolling as it was done out of pure anger and not for a laugh. This was what we at the Trolling Academy call ‘Enhanced E-Venger Flaming’ and is done by people who are so caught up in the moment they will hit the enter key immediately in order to get vengeance against someone who wronged them.
Often the perpetrators of Internet abuse have been abused themselves and need help. Whilst it certainly does not excuse their actions they have often ether being born into poverty, denied opportunities in life, or socially excluded in other ways. In the case of Liam Stacey, as shown in the report below, his racist comments only came after a revenge attack on those who abused him for his insenstive comment mocking Fabrice Muamba’s medical state.
The question we should be asking is not whether racism is wrong and should be dealt with, it is and it should. What we should be asking is; was this harsh treatment of Liam Stacey fair, when such comments are made in other public spaces every day without prosecution?
Liam Stacey was sentenced to prison for posting the racist remarks on Twitter as referred to above within days of him making them and his appeal was then quashed. Yet it is nearly a year since a police officer was first investigated for severe verbal and physical racist attacks on a black man during last year’s riots. It is only now that the Independent Police Complaints Commission has made its decision and only now that the Crown Prosecution Service is going to look seriously at the case.
In 2008 another Welsh person, Gavin Brent, became one of the first people to be prosecuted for flame trolling on the Internet under the Telecommunications Act 1984. His crime? Putting an abusive message about a police officer online. The other day an Essex police officer simply had to apologise for posting abusive messages about Simon Weston – no charges were brought against him!
It seems to me that it is clear there are rules for them and rules for us. Why are the police some how above the law, yet young people like Gavin Brent and Liam Stacy have to feel the full force of it? If people are going to fail jail-terms for racism then it should be all people and not just the young who may not have the maturity to see the consequences of their action, as those in positions of authority like the police should be expected to.