A UK Twitter user named Joseph Kelly has been sentenced to 150 hours of community service for posting a “grossly insulting” tweet about Captain Sir Tom Moore, a British Army officer who raised money for the NHS during the pandemic.
Moore became a national figure in the UK after walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. He was later knighted by the Queen. The day after his death, Kelly, 36, tweeted, “the only good British soldier is an act, burn auld fella buuuuurn.”
Kelly was found guilty in February last year and faced jail time. His case drew attention to a much-criticized piece of UK legislation that could allow social media users to be prosecuted for sending “grossly abusive” messages.
Such as indicated by the nationalKelly was convicted on Wednesday. His defense argued that Kelly had few followers on Twitter at the time; that he had been drinking before he wrote the post; and that he deleted the tweet just 20 minutes after it was sent.
“He admits he was wrong. He didn’t foresee what would happen. He took steps almost immediately to delete the tweet, but then the genie was out of the bottle,” said Kelly’s defense officer Tony Callahan. a drunken post, at a time when he was emotionally struggling, which he regretted and deleted almost immediately.”
Kelly was sentenced to 18 months of surveillance and 150 hours of unpaid work under a Scottish Community Payback Order (CPO).
Sheriff Adrian Cottam, who convicted Kelly, told the 36-year-old: “I believe, after hearing the evidence, that this was a grossly offensive tweet. The deterrent is really to show people that, despite the steps you have taken to try and recall things once you hit the blue button that it is it is important that other people realize how quickly things can get out of hand you are a great example of that your don’t have many followers.”
Kelly was found guilty under section 127 of the UK Communications Act. The law was originally intended to prosecute those who said abusive things on the phone, but has since been used to monitor “grossly abusive” posts on social media. Hundreds of British citizens have been found guilty under Article 127, often for insulting, abusing and harassing public figures such as athletes, journalists and MPs.
Section 127 will be replaced by UK sweeping Online Security Billthough critics worry that this new legislation will allow for prosecutions similar to Kelly’s — with citizens found guilty of sending “harmful” messages based on vague notions of public morality.