Leading article: Paul Chambers and a deserved last laugh


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The Independent Online

Common sense has finally prevailed in the case of Paul Chambers, the Doncaster man whose conviction for sending a "menacing electronic communication" on Twitter was quashed yesterday in the High Court.

Mr Chambers's case became a cause célèbre, taken up by such high-profile figures as Stephen Fry and Al Murray, and their intervention was undoubtedly valuable. In tweeting that he would blow up Robin Hood Airport in south Yorkshire – at worst a rather crude expression of his frustration at the prospect of the airport being closed because of heavy snow – Mr Chambers fell foul of an extraordinary sensitivity over security that has existed in the minds of the authorities since 9/11.

Too often in the past decade, "security" has been a catch-all excuse to come down hard on any behaviour that might be seen to depart from the norm. It is ridiculous that Mr Chambers was ever prosecuted, still more so that the case went through a failed appeal before the High Court finally came to the right decision.

Social media in general, and Twitter in particular, amount to nothing less than a revolution in how society operates. It remains at its early stages, and we are still feeling our way through these new channels of communication. Jokes – especially bad ones – can easily be misinterpreted. But that doesn't excuse the ordeal Mr Chambers has been put through.