The lastest person to be prosecuted forgiving offence on social media is eighteen year old Sam Busby, from Worcester. Like Matthew Woods, he posted jokes about missing schoolgirl April Jones on Facebook.
Last week I went on the BBC Radio Worcester Breakfast show to make the case that while abhorrent, the prosecution was a step too far. You can listen to my contribution via the embedded player below.
These cases are becoming far too frequent. As I have said previously, I do not think that this is a case of the Internet changing people so that they become more unpleasant. Instead, the Internet has revealed a side of human nature that was previously confined to pub banter and school-boy scrawls on the cover of exercise books. Outlawing such behaviour feels like the criminalisation of adolescence.
The clip also includes an interview with a man who had to put up with crass messages being posted online after his daughter committed suicide. The person who posted these messages was convicted and imprisoned. I think this case is slightly different to the crimes committed by Sam Busby and Matthew Woods. From the account given, it seems as if the messages were targetted directly and specifically at the family and the tribute page for the deceased. This is different to the current cases, where the jokes about April Jones were made on the defendants own Facebook ‘wall’.