Digital

Matthew Woods Facebook conviction – we cannot keep prosecuting jokes

Lancashire man Matthew Woods has been sentenced to 12 weeks in a young offender’s institute for making some very poor jokes.

It’s hard to know what to say after that.

Woods, 20, was arrested after posting jokes about missing Welsh schoolgirl April Jones on his Facebook page last Thursday. An angry mob reportedly later gathered at his house in Chorley, and he was taken by police at a separate address (quite possibly for his own protection).

According to reports, Woods was charged under sec 127 of the Communications Act — the same law, readers will recall, that Twitter Joke Trial defendant Paul Chambers found himself on the wrong side of.

It is worth noting that in his judgement on Paul Chambers appeal, the Lord Chief Justice made it quite clear that the Communications Act should not diminish

“Satirical, or iconoclastic, or rude comment, the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, banter or humour, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it”

But it has been used exactly to diminish Woods’s right to express unpopular, unfashionable and distasteful humour.

The “unfashionable” and “unpopular” elements of Woods’s comments and subsequent conviction bring to mind Liam Stacey’s conviction after he tweeted stupid comments about footballer Fabrice Muamba. Just as the nation then was apparently united in sympathy for the collapsed footballer, so now we are united in grief with the people of Machynlleth. Woods would appear to have been found “guilty” of crimes against taste and against sentiment.

We cannot allow this to continue. No one should be put in prison for making a joke that other people don’t like.

This week, the Crown Prosecution Service is consulting interested parties (including Index on Censorship) on whether new guidelines for prosecutions of social media cases are needed. This case goes to show how desperately urgent this reform is. In the past on this blog, we’ve bemoaned the something-must-be-done attitude that can lead to these cases coming to court. But now we have to say it ourselves: Something must be done about these absurd prosecutions. They are a danger to free speech, and a danger to the web.

ALSO READ: How do we legislate for social media?

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95 Comments

  1. Posted 08Oct12 at 3:42 pm | Permalink
    FrankFisher

    ” No one should be put in prison for making a joke that other people don’t like.”

    No one should be put in prison for saying ANYTHING that other people don’t like. And that includes racial abuse, that includes religious abuse, that includes disputing the holocaust, that includes saying that homosexuality is a sin. I do not hear this simple message from index on Censorship – and I haven’t heard it for many years. Liberty wont’ support free speech, Article 19 won’t support free speech – and neither do you lot. You consistently support free speech that runs up to the boundaries of that that you feel is acceptable – and that is not good enough.

    If you really are being treated as interested parties, then pull you bloody fingers out and stand up for some principle.

  2. Posted 08Oct12 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Frank, I’m not sure what Index articles you’ve been reading, but you clearly haven’t been reading mine

  3. Posted 08Oct12 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
    Ben Boult

    In my opinion, only a change in the statute itself will bring an end this nonsense. New ACPO guidance with regards to the application of Section 5 of the 1986 Act was essentially ignored – and as you rightly point out the supposed “milestone” common law precedent established by the High Court in the Chambers case has already been ignored / watered down to the point of insignificance. Parliament needs to take a lead…

  4. Posted 08Oct12 at 4:42 pm | Permalink
    FrankFisher

    Padraig, I’m taking the long view. But i’m sorry I am also talking about your article – this is a classic instance. Why does it matter if it’s a joke? Why muddy the waters? Why suggest that you should have more leeway in terms of permitted speech if you’re *joking*, than if you’re not?

    Why get upset about social media, and not get upset about people being arrested for burning the Koran in their back garden? You tackle the minor, ‘soundbite’ instances of restrictions on free speech, the easily opposed censorship, and stand well clear of the rest. What about the hard cases? Where are you on Emma West?

  5. Posted 08Oct12 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Frank, I realise we’ll never please you, but here, for the record, is what I wrote about the Emma West incident

    http://blog.indexoncensorship.org/2011/11/30/my-tram-experience-and-the-rise-of-the-citizen-stasi/

    This article mentions joking because it’s about a joke.

  6. Posted 08Oct12 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    and here’s Koran burning http://blog.indexoncensorship.org/2011/04/20/without-free-speech-this-island-seethes-with-resentment/

  7. Posted 08Oct12 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
    FrankFisher

    Christ Padraig are you kidding? With Emma West you don’t take a position. Do you? There’s no position there. You wonder about the impact of technology – but do you suggest she should have the right to her opinions? Nope. What’s your opinion? What’s index’s position?

  8. Posted 08Oct12 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
    FrankFisher

    Oh and you would please me if you did what people, naively perhaps, expect you to do – oppose censorship, in all cases.

  9. Posted 08Oct12 at 5:19 pm | Permalink
    Tony

    YOU, AND ALL PEOPLE LIKE YOU, ARE UNPRINCIPLED SCUM!!!

  10. Posted 08Oct12 at 5:41 pm | Permalink
    Chief

    Padraig, it appears that you are avoiding FrankFisher’s valid points.

  11. Posted 08Oct12 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Frank, it’s relevant to mention that it was a joke because this fits in nicely with the Chambers v DPP judgement. In fact, in paragraph 38 (not quoted in this article) LCJ says the following:

    “… if he may have intended the message as
    a joke, even if a poor joke in bad taste, it is unlikely that the mens rea required before
    conviction for the offence of sending a message of a menacing character will be
    established.”

    This makes for a very robust defence in this particular case. Unfortunately it is a defence that was not used. In fact, exactly none of that judgement was used in any way.

    As for your comments in relation to abuse, I don’t agree. Abuse (causing harassment, alarm, distress) is one of the recognised limits of free speech in a free and democratic society. It has to be direct though in my opinion, as with the case of Emma West.

    Free speech is not an absolute right. If I were to make use of your credit card and security code which I obtained without your consent, that could be regarded as a speech act. I suppose you’d be happy for me to charge whatever I like in the name of free speech?

  12. Posted 08Oct12 at 5:58 pm | Permalink
    J. Cleese

    A 20-year-old lad has been jailed for 12 weeks for posting “derogatory posts” on Facebook about April Jones. Kids get murdered every day and have been for thousands of years! It’s not getting worse, it’s maintained a constant. It’s just humans being humans. In fact, murder percentages have likely DECREASED in the past thousand years! This is just typical media “missing white woman syndrome”.

    What happened to freedom of speech? Does the government not realize how many jokes are made about dead people every day online? The prisons are already overcrowded! Somehow, making jokes about celebrities who have just died is acceptable (hence the reason almost everyone told or laughed at a joke about Michael Jackson within a day or two of his death) but making similar jokes about a young kid no one knows about is unacceptable!

    I am not the only one who doesn’t care about another typical murder. There are literally dozens of jokes on Sickipedia about her, and most have been voted up by many people.

    This country is getting more and more restricted, it’s ridiculous. The government want everyone to feel the same but humans don’t work that way.

    The world is becoming full of hypersensitive sheep.

    This punishment has opened a can of worms. Freedom of speech has stepped closer to not existing. Are they going to track everyone who created and posted a joke onto Sickipedia? Are they going track every member who voted the jokes up? Will they jail them all?

    See my point? :/

  13. Posted 08Oct12 at 6:21 pm | Permalink
    Steve McLovin

    Until I know what the joke/comments were its hard to assess the rights and wrongs. Anyone care to divulge the words or a link to them… or have they been censored?
    Cheers

  14. Posted 08Oct12 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Steve, there is an article here in which the rumoured text of the update is divulged in some of the comments. http://yro.slashdot.org/story/12/10/08/0033233/uk-man-arrested-for-offensive-joke-posted-on-facebook

    It’s a sick joke like you might imagine someone like Jerry Sadowitz telling. It’s not criminal.

  15. Posted 08Oct12 at 6:26 pm | Permalink
    Chad

    In principle free speech sounds fine and the ability to mock authority should be upheld but there have to be lines and don’t you think that situation should be taken into consideration? If somebody makes jokes on Sickopedia, then it’s expected content so visitors should heed the warnings… on Facebook, Twitter or just say in the street then I think people have the right to be offended.

    Perhaps you’d be happy for somebody to ruin your day by making insensitive/deliberately hurtful comments at the funeral of a loved one or just after you’ve lost a family member in your bid to protect free speech, but I think most people can see that this guy stepped over the mark of decency.

  16. Posted 08Oct12 at 6:36 pm | Permalink
    Steve McLovin

    Cheers…. offensive to the family certainly BUT that isn’t any worse than other ‘jokes’ that appear after other similar ‘events’.
    Anyway great work keep it up!

  17. Posted 08Oct12 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    “Abuse (causing harassment, alarm, distress) is one of the recognised limits of free speech in a free and democratic society”

    I don’t accept it. And neither, mostly, do the yanks for example – there is a constant campaign in this country, across Europe in fact, to conflate name calling, extreme political views, ‘offensive’ language and ideas, with ‘harrasment’, with ‘threats’ with actual violence. Constantly we are told that speech can harm – well, no it can not. The only speech that might are the lies told to propagandise for war – told in Index as much as anywhere else. But I see no politicians jailed for their lies.

    I’m sick of being told that all decent people accept that it should be illegal to upset someone – bollocks to that. This is not cut and dried, not accepted.

    And I’ll say again – the attempt to fuzz the boundaries here, to intentionally frame this debate around ‘jokes’ is just as damaging to genuine free speech as is the censorship itself. Why should a hateful comment be accepted in a joke, but not in all seriousness? No – people must be free to upset and offend, and we must be free to respond in kind. This guy shouldn’t be jailed; but instead abused, ostracized, laughed at, despised. he’s an arsehole, not a criminal.

  18. Posted 08Oct12 at 8:51 pm | Permalink
    BetterNotSayInThisDayAndAge

    I’m sure it wasn’t a nice joke, and I wouldn’t want to hear it but…

    I thought Facebook was supposed to be for family and friends, what friends does he have that they run to the police? Surely a polite word in his ear about how inappropriate it is?

    We are rapidly declining into 1984 style Thought Crimes, and no-one with any power cares…in fact they seem to be encouraging it, we are being taken into a police state!!

    To my mind, things like twitter and facebook should be treated like to the “conversations in a pub” test. If it might be something that you could be arrested for saying down the pub, then fine, if not, then just let it be. Stuff rises and fades and is forgotten on the internet so quickly, making a fuss makes it last longer.

    I agree that we don’t want to allow comments such that they lead us back to the bad old days when racism and sexsim was rife and ‘accepted’, but the balance these days is all wrong. Most of these people being convicted are basically being convicted for being stupid and impulsive (and often intoxicated) more than anything, and I didn’t think these were crimes!

  19. Posted 08Oct12 at 9:42 pm | Permalink
    kaos

    To all the suppoters of so called free speach. Wait until its one of your kids that gets taken and the kokes begin about your loved one. Will you be so liberal then?

  20. Posted 08Oct12 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    To Chad: Yes of course everyone has the right to be offended. No one has the right to not be offended. This is the point.

    To Frank: As a Yank myself, I know what you mean. But let me clarify. Hateful and hurtful speech should be acceptable if it is of a general nature. “Pakis go home” and that sort of thing. It’s not targeted at any person. “[so-and-so] is a paki bastard…” is a bit different but probably should not be illegal. If I am speaking to someone and I say “Go back home you paki bastard…” and cause them to feel distressed, well we’ve decided that’s not okay. But it’s unambiguous and should be easy to avoid.

    Now, you might say such a thing to a friend and not cause alarm or distress. That’s a different context and that’s acceptable. But everyone has the right to go about their lives without being threatened unreasonably. And it’s not just racial abuse. The test should be that the person on the receiving end had good reason to feel alarmed. Speech is curtailed where it abuts the rights of others. But as I said, no one has the right to not be offended.

  21. Posted 08Oct12 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    @FrankFisher,
    Whole hartedly behind yours and others views The guy is indeed an idiot not a criminal.

    These recent convictions are setting some extremely concerning precedents..

  22. Posted 08Oct12 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    I’ve created a page for those wishing to campaign on behalf of Matthew Woods.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Matthew-Woods/119675101517334

  23. Posted 08Oct12 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    I’ve created a page for those wishing to campaign on behalf of Matthew Woods

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Matthew-Woods/119675101517334

  24. Posted 09Oct12 at 12:09 am | Permalink
    deb

    This is not about Freedom of speech. It is about RESPECT…..RESPECT FOR APRIL, RESPECT FOR HER FAMILY, Its no joke is it???? a 5 year old missing??? do you really think is human to joke about that? Thats not human, its sick and he deserves eveything he gets. Would you find it exceptable if it was your 5 year old daughter? would you except it as Freedom of speech? i dont beleive im hearing this…..be human and have some bloody respect its nothing to joke about. I think its digusting, my son is the same age as Matthew Woods and i know he wouldnt even think of doing such a thing, and he believes in Freedom of speech as i do. “RESPECT feelings” do you think??

  25. Posted 09Oct12 at 12:14 am | Permalink
    deb

    I also see you have only 8 likes on your fb page and plenty of comments that agree with me….yes indeed he is a prick!

  26. Posted 09Oct12 at 12:22 am | Permalink
    D

    The crime has to fit the punishment. Locking up a 20 year old guy for 3 months for running his mouth of is utterly ridiculous and serves no benefit to any one other than perhaps protecting him against the lynch mob that may have done real physical harm when they turned up at his house after he made the post. You cant put people in jail for being idiots. Social media is no different to any other public forum, such as a newspaper or radio broadcast and should not be treated any differently. Content can be censured biased on the house rules of the forum and either aloud or removed. If the statement is factually incorrect a retraction can be issued and if it is offensive an apology is sufficient. In no way should offending people result in jail time

  27. Posted 09Oct12 at 1:13 am | Permalink
    deb

    I just thought….aswel as upset people outside his home,i wonder how Mr Woods will be treated in there? considering he was grinning when leaving court(no remorse there then!)inmates have morals and principles too, and some when it comes to young children….they may not find his jokes funny either.

  28. Posted 09Oct12 at 1:23 am | Permalink
    deb

    If it was your 5 year old daughter would a apology be enough? (whilst grinning)there is a line and people with a ounce of being sorry for Aprils parents would not cross it. There are jokes….and there are jokes, its up to our intelligence and our conscience to realise when jokes are raw and hurt….
    He has no right to make remarks in public as he did about a 5 year old missing girl and he had no right to make remarks about poor lost Maddie and dont you dare to tell me he has.
    Whats the matter with this boy? cant he find anything else to do?????

  29. Posted 09Oct12 at 1:34 am | Permalink
    Its not a mans world

    Im glad the horrible little worms locked up all the excuses people are giving because its only a joke, people tell jokes like this everyday, do they really, well lets hope they have the same fate… Drunk when he wrote it and unemployed aswell he sounds charming.
    Good luck in 3 months young man as i think your going to need it.

  30. Posted 09Oct12 at 1:37 am | Permalink
    deb

    This isnt just offending anyone as you put it…..its putting the knife in a mothers stomach and bloody twisting it without respect for anyone or anything.
    If this comes under a legal Act with jail time which it does, then thats the law and thats how it is. The goverment arent going to change it! and the 3 months may just wake him up. Maybe he can think of a “normal” hobby when he comes out that wont get him into trouble?

  31. Posted 09Oct12 at 2:26 am | Permalink
    Its not a mans world

    I agree whole hearted with you deb.

  32. Posted 09Oct12 at 4:42 am | Permalink
    Korgoth

    While I agree with some of the sentiment here, the multiple posts from the accused are of far more vile nature than are being published both here and the links in the comments.

    The article in the Guardian makes mention of more than are found here, and itself notes that it omitted those of a more sexually explicit nature.

    You don’t walk up to grandma and tell her a “joke” about pedophilia, necrophilia, and kidnapping.

    Part of the problem is that the anonymity the internet provides to spout awful and hurtful things, and it is corrupting others to think these types of thought and behavior is ok.

  33. Posted 09Oct12 at 5:19 am | Permalink
    withnail

    All I’m going to say is…all the outraged people have atrocious spelling and grammar. But that isn’t an indicator of low intelligence.

    Is it?

  34. Posted 09Oct12 at 8:34 am | Permalink
    FrankFisher

    To those ranting, barely literately, about how free speech doesn’t give you the right to offend – yes it does, yes it must, or it means nothing. I have kids too. I sat with my wife on saturday night talking about this, and the pair of us were almost in tears. This guy is a fucking arsehole. Scum. No doubt whatsoever. I would stand back and applaud if April Jones’ parents were to kick the living shit out of him. I’d hold their coats.

    But it is not the job of the State to decide what we can and cannot say, who we can and cannot offend. Those kind of powers are so dangerous, so damaging to all notions of democracy, that we HAVE to stand back and accept that foul scrotes like this can pour out their filth, and just accept it.

    Same goes for racist speech, same for any kind of prejudiced, offensive, hateful speech. It’s necessary to permit it in itself, it’s necessary for the well-being of democracy that it’s permitted. Sadly this country – with the tacit approval of fellow travelers like Index and Liberty – is constantly shrinking the zone of speech, every year, labelling another set of ‘hate speech’. Soon, we’ll have nothing left to say.

    We must demand the right to say what we believe, event what we *don’t* believe, no matter who it offends.

  35. Posted 09Oct12 at 11:44 am | Permalink
    Step Left

    “To all the suppoters of so called free speach. Wait until its one of your kids that gets taken and the kokes begin about your loved one. Will you be so liberal then?”

    Non-Sequitur. Must try harder next time……

  36. Posted 09Oct12 at 11:49 am | Permalink
    Step Left

    Furthermore there is a delicious Irony. If the sanctimonious authoritarian tossers who got the police involved and went round to his house actually cared about the feelings of those related to April Jones instead of this bizzare and debased ‘moral posturing’ then they would have ignored it. By the 50 person mobs action, the arrest and conviction the exposure of the joke and issue is a nationwide story, thereby making it nearly impossible to be ignorant of. If no one had got their pious pants in a twist those who knew april jones and the hypocritical and suspect sympathisers would not have heard the joke and no further pain would have been caused.

  37. Posted 09Oct12 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Just say “import the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution.”. That’s all we need. It works just fine there.

    Section 127 of the Communication Act wasn’t even designed for this purpose and is a clear case of selective prosecution: create a huge variety of laws that are rarely prosecuted, so that if you find someone who is doing something you don’t approve of, you then trawl through those laws to find something you can nick them for. It is rule by state rather than rule by law.

  38. Posted 09Oct12 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
    Jim

    It’s judgment, not judgement.

  39. Posted 09Oct12 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
    Stuart

    FF
    So – imprisoning someone for offensive online text is wrong, but beating the living shit out of them is acceptable??

  40. Posted 09Oct12 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
    deb

    Thank you “Its not a mans world” its nice to see that others also have a line which we do not cross where jokes are concerned. As for “withnail” i do tend to type a bit poor at gone 2am in the morning after a hard day at work….not that this page is anything to do with spelling and grammar.I dont think it is an indicator of low intelligence when you have a Masters Degree in Phychology, Criminology and Phychological studies :)

  41. Posted 09Oct12 at 3:31 pm | Permalink
    deb

    Psychology….see what this job does to me? :)

  42. Posted 09Oct12 at 3:38 pm | Permalink
    deb

    Stuart…can i ask you, if it was your daughter whom was missing at 5 years old which changed into a murder case, and then some dick decided to have a banter about it…and i state by saying “What is the difference between Santa and Mark Bridger? Santa doesnt come in April. How would you feel? Do you have children? because i know most parents would ask someone to hold their coat.

  43. Posted 09Oct12 at 3:47 pm | Permalink
    deb

    This is why the Goverment can and will decide, and serving time is the right thing. Although i still think Mr Woods will not be liked for quite some time after 3 months.The Tax payer who works(Unlike Mr Woods)will probally be paying towards police protection if wasnt in jail! He is in the best place as far as im concerned. And hopefully learn some respect while he is in there.

  44. Posted 09Oct12 at 7:39 pm | Permalink
    Stuart

    Deb
    I’m not defending someone’s right to beat the shit out of Mathew Woods but merely pointing out the irony of the situation

  45. Posted 09Oct12 at 11:13 pm | Permalink
    deb

    Im with you Stuart…it is ironic, i agree.But i also dont think it will be fogotten about in 3 months. Also some inmates have principles on the inside when it comes to children so he may just learn how not to overstep the line before he is released.I ask myself would Mr Woods have done this if it was his dearest? a little sister maybe? No, of course not, but beacause its someone else that makes it ok.He was still grinning when sentenced which to me says he thought that was funny too. This lad is going no where in life and i wouldnt be surprised if we hear the name again for a crime in the future

  46. Posted 09Oct12 at 11:19 pm | Permalink
    deb

    Tim Almond….I looked this up:
    The growing number of arrests – often under the expansive section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act, which makes it an offence to send or post “grossly offensive” material online

  47. Posted 09Oct12 at 11:21 pm | Permalink
    Stacey

    Sexually explicit comments, As well as jokes!. Lets not water the issue down here. Were talking about a little girl who’s been abducted and murdered by pedophile scum. Now the only people that would make sexually explicit comments about that, is pedophile scum in the making, probably won’t make it though since he’s obviously not got the brains to keep his sick fantasy’s on the down low.

    It’s not about being super sensitive, by default, it’s not a joke if NO ONE finds its funny. Use the definition of the word joke, and these comments are do not really apply, they are in a league of their own sick nature and yes of course he should be punished.

  48. Posted 09Oct12 at 11:51 pm | Permalink
    deb

    Psychologist opinion.(work colleague)
    In response to his sentence, he smirked at them, if you wonder why people are motivated to write such comments the smirk says it all. They will create great emotion, because that is what they lack.

  49. Posted 10Oct12 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    @deb
    “He has no right to make remarks in public as he did about a 5 year old missing girl and he had no right to make remarks about poor lost Maddie and dont you dare to tell me he has.”
    I dare tell you he has.
    What will you do now? Threaten me? Is that the kind of world you want to live in, where your anger, bitterness and implied threats of violence trump my rights?
    Leaving aside the risks that poses for you (since you have no way of knowing if you can enforce your desire to tell me what I can or cannot say, without recourse to the state, which may or may not give a shit about what you think) where exactly would you draw the line?
    People who offend in what they say do us an important service by allowing us to understand exactly where we draw our own lines.

    BTW, flaunting your claimed qualifications, which you can’t even spell, in various posts, isn’t actually an overwhelming argument.

  50. Posted 10Oct12 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    @Stuart

    “So – imprisoning someone for offensive online text is wrong, but beating the living shit out of them is acceptable??”

    If I were to beat the shit out of him, or you, I’d consider that disproportionate, if (as I said) April Jones’ parents were to do so, are you really going to argue against that?

    My points are simple and consistent. The bloke is an arsehole. No one would begrudge the Jones’ thumping him. We can all despise him. BUT it is not the State’s job to tell us what opinions we should have, or express, or what jokes we should tell.

    Have we forgotten the GDR and USSR?

  51. Posted 10Oct12 at 11:58 am | Permalink
    p

    matthew woods was not grinning – he was grimacing due to the fact he was led to believe he would do community service. He was given 18 weeks reduced to 12 for admitting it but if you read someone else can be in court for same act and guess what? he gets community service. Perhaps Matthew Woods is white and British and not the ethnic minority that can joke about killing soldiers and walk away grinning with his £300 fine. The law is an ass and if Matthew Woods is in jail so should he be

  52. Posted 10Oct12 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
    Step Left

    @Deb

    I mock you, your family (past and present) and your values. TO THE MAX!

    Mainly because you are a self-debasing subject who is enabling the trouncing of your own, mine and others political rights. Plus you further debase our already retarded and childish political culture further by giving a shit about what some person said on facebook. Isn’t there more important and productive things to do in life than support the crushing of speech and working yourself up over a joke?

  53. Posted 10Oct12 at 11:32 pm | Permalink
    deb

    Oh dear! i disagree with a dick making comments about a lost little girl. Now you have all finished i will point out to Stuart…that i was actually agreeing with you? The line i have mentioned is a line with consideration for April which is clearly to much to ask for! As for my qualification it has nothing to do with it apart from the fact that this boy has no resoect, even without my employment i would feel the same. You speak of freedom of speak but by god no one can state that they disgree can they. From reading the last few comments it upsets me that “you” and thats all of you can act so aggressive. Threaten you? what on earth are you talking about? Mock me? go ahead if makes you feel good and as for my family and values you dont even know me!!! im shaking sitting here, the way you have all spoken to me is disgusting.

    I believe he was out of order, if it was my daughter he joked about i would want something done. I believe he deserves 3 months, i believe he was grinning in court and thats my opinion and freedom of speech.

  54. Posted 10Oct12 at 11:39 pm | Permalink
    deb

    I agree with you P. i was in the Army for 11 years and anyone who jokes about dead soldiers should also be serving time as so for abducted children

  55. Posted 10Oct12 at 11:45 pm | Permalink
    deb

    Carter 101

    I dont want to live in a world where people can joke about a abducted 5 year old and others in society find it ok. ie yourself.If it was your daughter would it give him the right?

  56. Posted 11Oct12 at 12:09 am | Permalink
    deb

    Stepleft

    Youre absolutley right…why am i getting wound up and upset about a comment made on facebook concerning a 5 year old little girl. And yes i do have more important things to do. And when i have comments from the likes of Carter101 it just grinds me. Due to this im coming off this page…..although i would never mock you or your family values over your opinion. Lets all pray for April shall we? maybe we can at least do that together

  57. Posted 11Oct12 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
    Step Left

    “i was in the Army for 11 years and anyone who jokes about dead soldiers should also be serving time as so for abducted children”

    There we have it its starkest form. Essentially deb’s approach is emotional tribalism rather than any political principle. Its a case of ‘I disagree with what you say, I want you locked up’.

    Lacking in principle, lacking in foresight and lacking in sophisticated analysis.

  58. Posted 11Oct12 at 9:14 pm | Permalink
    jim

    The content of the jokes themselves are irrelevant. The issue should be ‘What was the intention of what was said?’.
    If it was to cause deliberate harm or distress by being pointed at the ‘victim’, this should be punished.
    If like in this case it was just a guy posting on his own fb page, that is just being a tool.

  59. Posted 11Oct12 at 11:06 pm | Permalink
    deb

    That was just the sort of reply i would expect from you stepleft. It seems you lack any feelings for someones opinion if it doesnt agree with yours. You show this by being insulting verbally attempting to degrade them. well im sorry but i lack none of the above and as for my family (past and present)they are decent law abiding people with morales….ex military, ex police, ex RAF police. And a nurse, teacher along with a foster carer whom cares for teenagers whom have got into a spot of bother. So you can mock all you like about my family (to the max) to no avail. Insulting people really isnt a attractive nature yet you seem to think so. You judge someone by their opinion and bring personal issues into it by involving my family which is pathetic and try to dictate my personality? And why do you copy and paste what i say? its amusing how you go to this extent because you have to be heard and a little creepy!!!

    They will create great emotion, because that is what they lack.

    Ill leave you on this note because your revolting comments which are including my family disgust me.

  60. Posted 11Oct12 at 11:17 pm | Permalink
    deb

    I see you never answered my question either…if it was your daughter would it give him the right? Can you answer it? Can you? Hows that for analysis. (You dont need to copy and paste this i think everyone can read it)

  61. Posted 12Oct12 at 12:47 pm | Permalink
    Step Left

    Copy and pasting is a great way to respond directly to points people made, this is not uncommon on the web.

    I insulted you because it was funny to me and having dealt with the same number of non-sequiturs and logical fallacies on facebook Im tired of hearing them so its funner to lightly mock.

    My point about your position being about emotional tribalism still stands. You support the locking up of people who say things that offends you and your ideas about who should be respected in society. Soldiers are paid killers you know and fight in political wars. While I tend not to pick on the rank and file and rather on the military leaders and politicians why should soldiers be protected from ridicule and crass opinions about them? What marks them out as having special privileges? Nothing but your support of the institution they are part of. Which is why you defend people ‘on your team’ if you will from abuse, not because you have argued a lengthy and learned position on conditional speech but because you feel (for whatever reasons) that they shouldnt be mocked because you think highly of them.

    ” see you never answered my question either…if it was your daughter would it give him the right? Can you answer it? Can you? Hows that for analysis.”

    I didnt answer it because it is an irrelevant point. This is rubbish emotionalism passing for political point making. My position and that of Index’s is based on a political principle of defending free speech, even speech which offends us or we disagree with. Bringing up this misses the point spectacularly because yes, I would not support the incarceration of Woods if it was directed at my daughter because I support freedom of speech.

  62. Posted 14Oct12 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
    Michael

    People like deb represent the absolute lowest of humanity.

    Getting on her high horse and screaming for justice every time she gets her precious head in a tizzy over something.

    Of course it’s absolutely disgusting that this individual was sent to prison for making an offensive joke. Freedom of speech fundamentally includes the right to insult too.

    And it’s almost laughable how people try to bring in the issues of drunkenness and unemployment to try and damn him even more. So people like Deb think that if you’re middle-class and from the Home Counties then free speech is fine, but if you’re poor and feckless then you can rot in jail.

    What a disgusting state of affairs in 21st century Britain.

  63. Posted 14Oct12 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    The jokes were in bad taste but still i dont feel anyone should be jailed because of their poor sense of humour or bad topic to do it on.There are worse offenders out there who escape punishment

  64. Posted 24Oct12 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
    deb

    Stepleft

    Im not on Facebook but i can imagine status and comments can be worth mocking.

    If you can except someone joking about your lost 5 year old daughter because of freedom of speech thats your view as a individual choice. Personally id be angry and want something done about it, but thats my view and choice as a individual. The military fight for this country (past and present) every step we take is freedom with thanks to them whom have died on the front line, that to me aslo isnt acceptable to joke about. Again thats my veiw as a individual. My view also isnt only about “me”. As some people agree with you there are also people who agree with me.

    Michael
    Tizzy? i found that one quite amusing and had a giggle, nor am i on a highn horse :) Yes, the 21st Century is disgusting….people defending those who joke about murderd children and our guys fighting for our freedom is the absolute lowest of humanity. But again you would disagree i expect beacause we all differ our view.

    We all have our own opinion about Mr Woods, yet we cant discuss it without getting personal, being verbally insulting and nasty….Really does make you think doesnt it?

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  67. Posted 19Nov12 at 11:07 pm | Permalink
    nicetry

    dear deb:

    Are you an idiot? The words ‘except’ and ‘accept’ are not the same. They do not share a common meaning. This is not merely spelling, punctuation and grammar but, indeed, a syntax error. Following this thread I have developed the ability to detect one of your posts by reading it without having to look at the name of the author. That is how badly written your thoughts are in comparison to the general literacy herein.

    This may seem a petty concern given your unbelievable views on ‘crime’ and the punishment thereof but your writing style really annoys me.
    I’m only part way through this thread so responding to things you said over a month ago but I wanted to point out that when that guy said ‘I mock your family’ he really wasn’t mocking your family. He was mocking you. He was mocking you and you went for it like a fish to a worm. Do you respond like this every time someone pokes a bit of fun at you I wonder? becoming all animated and inflated, wanting someone hanged?

    In this case of poor little April it appears that the person responsible has been brought to account by the authorities and rightfully so.

    The Parents have not been allowed to decide his punishment. This is because, given the choice, most parents of murdered children would have the perpetrator put to death, probably being happy to commit the sentence themselves. (You with you ‘masters in psychology’ (thought I’d show you how it’s spelled) will surely be able to explain this far better than I. Instead he will spend many years in jail, hopefully the rest of his days, he is a danger to children and to society.

    On the other hand we have somebody who writes comments on his own facebook page.
    I am for freedom of speech. I speak out against your view that someone should be impugned for what they have merely said. I’d like to point out that I would always consider the mitigating circumstances but it is not the case that he was trying to drum up an army of child murderers to join him in a rampage – that, I believe, should carry a jail sentence. No, he was jailed because you (people like you) were offended. I was offended too but unlike you I don’t think it’s my job to instruct others on what to say or what to think.

    You cannot take away people’s rights to be arseholes – if you do, and I come to power, you will become illegal (because I believe you are an arsehole). Are you so naive that you are willing to condone, to encourage the government to impose restrictions on the views you are allowed to hold?
    No parliament is going to drum up legislation purporting solely to the verbal degradation of murdered little girls – no, legislation has to be far more general, more far-reaching than that.
    You want to empower government to shut people up, and what infuriates me is that so many idiots of your sort actually trust those in control of the law not to pass, with your implicit rancour, laws which will inhibit your rights.

    You may not have understood that sentence so I’ll be more acute;

    If you send him down for saying things you find offensive the tomorrow they might send YOU, Deb, down for things I/ They/ We find offensive. Understand?

    You probably read The Sun or The Daily Mail so imagine if tomorrow they started sending people down for wanting to ‘send em all back’? Off you go to jail, Deb. Or maybe it becomes a hate crime to have strong views against asylum seekers, taking our jobs and stealing our benefits? Simultaneously? Oh, you hater Deb! Off to jail. Or speaking up about women’s rights or victims of police brutality…
    You have stumbled upon a far bigger issue than the one you seek. All others here can see it which may be why you’ve found yourself out of sync with this thread. Those concerned with the right to free speech are not solely concerned with the rights of one set of parents. They are concerned with the legal rights of over 60 million people in this nation.

    Rights that are obviously more fragile than you believe. Even if you trust this government, what about the next?

  68. Posted 19Nov12 at 11:22 pm | Permalink
    nicetry

    Deb

    ‘Personally id be angry and want something done about it, but thats my view and choice as a individual.’

    No – you do not have the right not to be offended.

    This has already been pointed out to you earlier in the thread but I wonder if you grasp the meaning of this?

    Basically – We Cannot Ban Everything That Offends Everybody.

    Get it? You imbecile?

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5 Trackbacks

  1. [...] my extensive discussion of the language parsing in the amended stalking statute, Josh Zerkle shared this article from Europe on Facebook.  Matthew Woods made some tasteless jokes on Facebook, and got himself 3 months in a [...]

  2. [...] wishes to regulate our thoughts, and we all need to be aware that we could be next on the list. The IOC is well worth reading on this. Share this:FacebookTwitterStumbleUponRedditLike this:LikeBe the first [...]

  3. [...] October 2012. See  article from  blog.indexoncensorship.org by Padraig Reidy Share this:EmailPrintTwitterFacebookLike [...]

  4. [...] Matthew Woods Facebook conviction – we cannot keep prosecuting jokes (indexoncensorship.org) Share this:TwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponLinkedInRedditEmailTumblr [...]

  5. [...] up by various media outlets and has been widely commented on across the blogosphere (for instance here, here and here). Most posts have been critical of the prosecution, although some expressed a hope [...]

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