The policing of tweets continues in the UK. The literal policing of tweets.
Because there’s apparently not enough people being stabbed on a daily basis, local law enforcement agencies have decided making house calls over reports of “hateful” tweeting is a worthwhile use of resources. This fairly recent law enforcement tradition dates back to at least 2014, but in recent weeks police have ramped up efforts to… well, it’s unclear exactly what the endgame is.
Irish writer Graham Linehan was recently visited by a Scottish police officer over supposed harassment of a trans rights activist. There didn’t appear to be any actual harassment. Instead, it appeared the alleged harassee wasn’t satisfied with the Mute and Block options offered by Twitter, and decided to file a formal complaint about speech he didn’t like.
The end result was a stupefying mix of force and futility. The officer asked Linehan to stop engaging with Adrian Harrop (the offended party). Linehan refused to do so. The officer left and Linehan got back on Twitter to talk about this bizarre waste of everyone’s time.
More time is being wasted by UK law enforcement, this time in an attempt to persuade an elderly person she harbors some outdated ideas.
Margaret Nelson is a 74-year-old woman who lives in a village in Suffolk. On Monday morning she was woken by a telephone call. It was an officer from Suffolk police. The officer wanted to speak to Mrs Nelson about her Twitter account and her blog.
Among the statements she made on Twitter last month and which apparently concerned that police officer: ‘Gender is BS. Pass it on’.
‘Gender’s fashionable nonsense. Sex is real. I’ve no reason to feel ashamed of stating the truth. The bloody annoying ones are those who use words like ‘cis’ or ‘terf’ and other BS, and relegate biological women to a ‘subset’. Sorry you believe the mythology.’
The only way any public official should have felt “concerned” is if they know her personally and frequently attend social events where she’s both present and vocal. That’s a very low level of concern, one that could be mitigated by steering clear of these social functions. It shouldn’t be “concerning” enough for law enforcement to get involved. No one should be getting phone calls from cops because they said something stupid on the internet.
This phone call was especially pointless. The officer asked Nelson to stop writing things other people found offensive. Nelson asked the officer if free speech was still something the officer considered important. The officer said she thought free speech was important and Nelson said that’s exactly why she wouldn’t stop writing things that mildly upset other people.
The oddest aspect of this futile interaction was the department’s response on Twitter — one that makes it appear as though officers have voluntarily deputized themselves on behalf of Twitter.
Hi Margaret, we had a number of people contact us on social media about the comments made online. A follow-up call was made for no other reason than to raise awareness of the complaints. Kind regards, Web Team.
Instead, an unknown number of internet users chose to make this a police matter. We could blame this entirely on them if it wasn’t for the fact that multiple UK police agencies have made it clear they’ll investigate impolite speech if someone’s willing to waste their own time filing a complaint. In the end, they can’t do anything more than ask someone to stop making other people angry. But that’s all they can do, so it becomes a waste of taxpayers’ money on top of everything else, which should make people angrier than whatever happened to piss them off as it rolled through their timeline.
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