Another person has received a criminal conviction for something they posted on a social media site. Matthew Woods received a 12 week prison sentence for posting a message about missing schoolgirl April Jones on his Facebook page. At 20 years old, Woods sits in the same young and foolish male demographic as Azhar Ahmed, @Rileyy_69 and Leo Traynor’s troll.
The media have refrained from reporting Wood’s comments. This is a good thing. The joke assumes the guilt of the person accused of April Jones’ murder, so reporting it would prejudice a trial. Media restraint also minimises any distress to April’s family, and denies the attention-seeker further opportunities to provoke.
However… The only reason this Woods has received any attention in the first place was because he has been hauled before a magistrate! Had he not been arrested and charged, the comment would have been lost in the obscurity of his Facebook timeline after a couple of days. The comment obviously violates Facebook Terms & Conditions, so he might have been banned from using the site. We might describe that as a contractual matter, not criminal. And he might have lost a lot of friends (both in the real sense and the Facebook sense). But this is a social sanction, not criminal. Continue reading