Thoughtcrime is Real

I am careful what I say on Twitter especially, and the internet in general.

The sad reality is that the internet is not the place for expressing views that you do not want the wider public — including law enforcement and intelligence agencies — to know you hold.

We already know that the National Security Agency will soon capture all communications — phone calls, search histories, web history, e-mails, passwords, etc — in their Utah data centre.

In Britain, a dangerous precedent is being set.

From the BBC:

A teenager arrested over a malicious tweet sent to Team GB diver Tom Daley has been issued with a warning.

Dorset Police said the 17-year-old boy was held at a guest house in the Weymouth area on suspicion of malicious communications and later bailed.

After coming fourth in the men’s synchronised 10m platform diving event on Monday, Daley, 18, from Plymouth received a message on Twitter.

It told him he had let down his father Rob, who died in 2011 from cancer.

Arrested and cautioned for expressing an opinion. Not for threatening violence. Not even for racial or sexual abuse — as happened in March when a student was convicted of incitement to racial hatred after he tweeted a series of racial slurs.

Just for expressing an opinion that the authorities found to be distasteful. 

I admit, it was a distasteful comment. But the idea that the government should arrest the person who made it is far, far, far more distasteful still.

Meanwhile, the number of bankers arrested for rigging LIBOR remains at zero.

This is a very salient example of the problems with the internet in its present state. If the state has the opportunity to gather and index citizens’ thoughts, these cases in Britain — supposedly a free country — illustrate that it is a very short and slippery slope toward the state punishing citizens for expressing their opinions.

While the First Amendment might seem to protect speech, the United States has already got involved in policing expression. And the First Amendment has a massive loophole — it only restricts Congress’ ability to legislate against speech. Other agencies — like the TSA — would seem to be be able to restrict speech under “administrative” grounds (the same rationale they use to gut the Fourth Amendment and search travellers without probable cause).

From the BBC:

Holidaymakers have been warned to watch their words after two friends were refused entry to the US on security grounds after a tweet.

Before his trip, Leigh Van Bryan wrote that he was going to “destroy America”.

He insisted he was referring to simply having a good time — but was sent home.

Trade association Abta told the BBC that the case highlighted that holidaymakers should never do anything to raise “concern or suspicion in any way”.

The US Department for Homeland Security picked up Mr Bryan’s messages ahead of his holiday in Los Angeles.

The 26-year-old bar manager wrote a message to a friend on the micro-blogging service, saying: “Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America.”

US law enforcement represents the overwhelming majority of requests to Twitter for users’ private information.

From Reuters:

Law enforcement agencies in the United States are behind the overwhelming majority of requests for Twitter users’ private information, the social media company revealed Monday in its first ever public report on the subject.

Of the 849 total government requests for user information during the period spanning January 1 to June 30 this year, 679 — or 80 percent — took place in the United States, typically for use in criminal investigations, Twitter said.

Japan was in second place after the United States with 98 requests filed by police, followed by 11 requests from law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom and the same number from agencies in Canada.

Speech on Twitter — and on the internet in general — isn’t free.

UPDATE: It would seem that the arrested party did later make some threats. Whether he was arrested for these or his initial messages remains to be seen — he was cautioned for “malicious communications” which means “causing anxiety or distress”, and so could easily apply to the first tweet — as opposed to intimidation or criminal threatening, which he was not cautioned for.

54 thoughts on “Thoughtcrime is Real

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  3. Hey Aziz,

    Know what law enforcement agencies in the United States don’t do anymore?
    A: Enforce Laws.

    We pay them so much, they think they’re too important to follow their own job descriptions. They’re free to use their imagination as to what they should be doing, which in case you haven’t noticed seems to be ANYTHING but what they’re supposed to be doing.

    America has become a country scared of its own shadow.

    I have zero interest in twitter, but if I have a suggestion for you, John: Start tweeting gibberish and calling them “crypto-twits .” We’ll spend billions trying to decipher them, and probably drag you to Gitmo.

    • hahahahahahhahahah

      This is what happens when you appoint friends into intelligence circles. The whole department should be sacked for allowing this to get through.

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  5. Just a clarification about this article the basic outline of which is correct but the details of which are completely wrong. The unpleasant and mentally disturbed young lad who made the comment about Tom Daley’s dead father was NOT arrested as a result of this comment – if the writer of this article checks the UK press, they will establish that the arrest stemmed from a subsequent tweet in which the same author said he would drown the olympic swimmer – thus a threat of violence. it is important to get our facts correct – the issue to take on board from this is that the authorities indeed are and have been monitoring everything that everybody says and does for many years (thanks to the wonderful and longstanding US echelon system in the UK) . I am well aware that everything I surf and say on the Internet is recorded and don’t give a damn not because such surveillance is right (it is not) but because I am not intimidated and I predicted the state we have reached at the start of the 1980’s. Conclusion I agree with the outline of the article but in this specific case have little sympathy for the British teenager because Tom Daley’s has achieved something in his life and doesn’t deserve to be threatened online. In contrast I have sympathy for the young British twits who visited the US and were arrested because the US authorities (as so often) are too stupid and of course too arrogant and obsessed with their own power and self importance to understand either English vernacular or the context in which it was used. While I love Canada, it is now over 20 years since my last visit to the US (I made many trips in the past) and I suspect I will now never return because it has become such an unpleasant place …………

      • Aziz, you totally missed the point made by bernard lambert. You have MISREPRESENTED THE FACTS of the story. He very clearly laid out to you that the arrest was made in reference to a threat of drowning Mr. Daley, not an opinion. Read the story yourself:
        It is in the last line of the second paragraph. You have altered the entire meaning of the story by leaving out a KEY FACT.

        • Actually the initial reports I read including by the BBC didn’t record this fact.

          I have updated the post to reflect the fact that violent threats were made, but it is still unclear what the arrest was for. Had the arrest been for the death threats it would seem that he would have been arrested for intimidation or criminal threatening, not malicious communications.

          And in any case the notion of drowning Tom Daley is clearly absurd and satirical and still should have never led to an arrest. Additionally, the notion that you should watch what you say on Twitter is still completely true.

        • At least in the US, you can’t get arrested for threatening someone. The difference is whether we carry out such threat. You must take some step towards such action. If his only action was to threaten the swimmer on twitter, then that can’t be the grounds for his arrest. I doubt the cops had anything more. And yes threats are still a “thought crime.” Just cause they verbalize their thoughts doesn’t mean its a crime.

  6. Aziz – I guess whether you like it or not you have made the list. I am sure the “precogs” are just waiting to spit out your name. Seriously though it is ironic that the entire Western world which was built on freedom of all types is descending inexorably in to police state totalitarianism while the East long mocked for that seems to be moving the opposite direction. If our people and government keep on this unfortunate path then there is no way we will have the dynamic civilization that will recover from this and we will slip further toward 3rd world status. This situations you detail above are just the kind of freedom crushing idiocy that used to be found in the likes of the Soviet Union or tin pot dictatorships and it is extremely disconcerting to hear about this occurring in a 1st world nation. I am by no means a gun advocate but this sort of overbearing government intrusion is exactly the type of reason the framers of the Constitution included the 2nd amendment, as a safeguard, I just hope it never comes to anything of that nature but I fear it will at some point.

    • Maybe I have made a few lists. And while I am happy to condemn the West’s failure to preserve and protect liberty, I’m not going to start praising the East — China and Russia, while providing an important counterbalance to Western power, aren’t model democracies or free markets either.

  7. I served in the Royal Navy on the Arctic Russian Convoys of World War 2 & was proud to be British until the age of 70. Then came a succussion of shocks as I learned that corruption is rampant in our courts. In memory of all those men (British & German) who had died around me (& what we BELIEVED we were fighting for), I could not turn my back, & made it my mission in life to expose the ‘Judicial Mafia’. It has proved a very dangerous mission, Britain proving itself to be a ruthless, lawless, murderous & merciless Orwellian Police State, hiding behind a nauseating pretence of ‘Democracy’. After 17 years of persecution, at tthe age of 86 I have been forced to flee the land of my birth & seek asylum in Ireland. For more Email or see

    • Obviously, we can say ‘what we like to who we like’ (see ‘D’ above’), but we must be prepared to accept the consequences. It might be a punch on the nose. Or, if we make a threat to kill (which is a crime), we must expect The Law to take notice & to take action if appropriate, & rightly so in a civilised country. Sadly, Britain today is NOT a civilised country, but an Orwellian Police State ruled by Quislings, where daring to protest about corruption will bring the heaviest penalties. In my post above I tell how I was forced to flee the land of my birth. You may wonder why? My ‘crime’ was to offer leaftets in which I was asking Judge Jonathan Lee Rose to resign as a judge & as President of the United Hebrew Congregation in Leeds. Using one of the many bad laws brought in by the mass murderers & war criminals of the Blair Regime, twisted minds construed this as a ‘Religously Aggravated Crime’. Let me make it clear: I do not dislike Jews, nor do I dislike Rose because he is a Jew: I despise him as I despise all corrupt judges, & will continue to expose them while ever there is breath in my body. Because of mission I am now facing 2 years & 5 years in prison if I dare set foot in Britain again. In truth, they do not want me in prison, but in a Stalinist ‘Mental Hospital’, so that all my exposing corruption can be dismissed as trhe ramblings of a lunatic. Perhaps I am?

  8. He did write:

    “?I??Y J??I?? @Rileyy_69
    “@tomdaley1994 i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky t*** your a nobody people like you make me sick”
    30 Jul 12”

    And a tweet in response to another user:

    “Oll @_OllyRiley 30 Jul 12

    @Rileyy_69 @TomDaley1994 how dare you try and threaten someone who is diving for our country you little scum bag

    ?I??Y J??I?? @Rileyy_69

    @_OllyRiley i dont give a shit bruv i’m gonna drown him and i’m gonna shoot you he failed why you suporting him you cunt”

    “Thought crime” or a death threat? Thin line. Looks like death threats to me.

    • Death threat statute is a misnomer. It is not about the the threat of death. It is about using the death threat to coerce someone into doing something or abstaining from doing something. The police knew very well there was no possibility of coercion so that was why he was never charged with such a thing. Threatening someone’s life by itself is not a crime.

  9. Free speech does not apply to Twitter, it is a corporation, they can make whatever rules they wish. That said, I am disgusted that the law continues to get involved in this crap. Free speech in the U.K. is dead.


  11. Power controls through fear. Lose your fear and “they” can have no control over you.

    After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

  12. To Roger,
    Don’t believe 2nd amendment could, by itself, produce a successful revolution in a “developed” country. The local army, national guard, police, etc. would have to refrain from counter action for any chance of success. Do you know what kind of powerful weapons these governments have — if used against the “people” in a revolution attempt?
    Then with these communication intrusions any anti-gov’t plotting can be nipped in the bud. Looks like humanity is heading for “ant colony” status.

  13. Government is but a tool serving the agenda of the New World Order criminals (Rothchilds, Rockerfellers, Bushes, Kissinger, Clintons, Bernanki, Obama etal ad nauseum) . Human rights do not fit into that agenda and will continue to be attacked while a major portion of the global public remain “asleep” and ignorant of NWO goals. The atacks on 1st, 2nd, and 4th Amendment rights along with staged false flag attacks, and misreporting by mainstream media are designed to allow for gradual acceptance by the public of their eventual domination and virtual enslavement.

  14. Hi
    You are completely wrong on this. If someone threatens verbally they do commit a crime. Doing it in a letter, email or internet is no different. Can you check your facts please.

    • He was charged not with criminal threatening or intimidation, but with malicious communications, which means to:

      send or deliver letters or other articles for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety.

      That’s why the BBC reported that it was because of the initial tweet, and I was just re-reporting what the BBC reported. The bottom line is that I doubt he would have been arrested had he not made the threat, but the bizarre reality is that the thing he was cautioned for seems to have been “causing distress or anxiety” as opposed to threats of violence.

  15. Uncle Sam does not and will not be able to collect all data about everyone. That’s physically impossible, nor do they have any interest in doing so. They only go after persons of interest. If you have nothing to hind, you have nothing to worry about. That’s just my 2 cents. -ICETPH00T

      • If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear, and there has never been a miscarriage of justice anywhere, ever.

        • Jack, You are right to blame the Blair Regime: Those war criminals & mass murderers should be behind bars. You are right to complain that the many bad laws enacted by them have not been repealed. The reason for that failure is that the regime headed by the man who proudly proclaimed himself as the ‘The Heir to Blair’ is no better.
          David Davis? His CLAIM to be against 90 day detention was false . His ‘resignation’ was a carefully crafted theatrical production, each character playing his part to ‘prove’ to the gullible we live in a democracy.

        • Hey Norman, would just like to say I admire you for your run against Davis in Haltemprice and Howden. It’s an honour you have chosen to comment on my blog.

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  17. I think the US official who reported that should be sacked for stupidity. An urban dictionary search would show that this Holidaymaker was precisely the idiot the USA needs to visit their country.

    As if the Terrorists would use such words..

    Can I please get a job in intelligence!!!!

  18. What would have happened 15 years ago is that a policeman would have visited this boy and had a quiet word with him and told him to wise up. While doing that the policeman would have used his judgement to size up the lad and decide if he really were a threat, or if he was just a kid being unpleasant, or if he were mentally ill. The policeman could then act accordingly.
    It is only since we have had 13 years under the jackboot of the Party of Evil that nonsense like this has occurred. But then, Blair/Brown and the Laour party wanted to enslave us all. They tried to introduce laws that would allow 90 day detention without charge and compel us all to carry ID cards (these were thankfully stopped, the latter thanks to a man called David Davis who sacrificed his place in a Conservative government to achieve this end). The real scandal is that the current coalition government (now 2 years in office) hasn’t rolled back the abuses perpetrated by those enemies of the British people.

  19. By all means have freedom of speech, but don’t use that as a means to cause distress and be malicious. Otherwise expect consequences of actions. As I’m sure you know, freedom of speech wasn’t granted so that people could abuse each other.

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