These days online anything is considered criminal and this has been proven true in Europe.

Like anywhere else on the planet users of the internet on the continent can be a wide variety of things. Some are boring, others are wholesome, many are silent and enjoy videos of kittens and others make racist comments about soccer players which then earn them a visit from the police.

Yes. You read the above line right.

To be clear, what these folks have said is abhorrent and there is no excuse for it. I am no fan of bullies, bigots and blowhards and to direct terrible communications towards a group in the United Kingdom for losing a soccer game at the European Championship is absolutely insane.

However, so is going out and recently arresting people for “malicious communication.”

If comment is not followed by offline action or is repeated in combination with other forms of cyber stalking it should not be a crime. Much like charges for “terroristic threats” in the United States, it should not be illegal to call someone a name which hurts their feelings and it should also not be an offense to say one could “wring someone’s neck” or worse if there is no intent to do so and no capability to without encouragement of undercover law enforcement or bad actors.

This kind of thing happens too much for me to be comfortable with.

As I wrote previously during my time in graduate school, authorities swarmed on Gilberto Valle like a bird on a bug in 2013 over various online comments he made detailing a scenario where he would kidnap a person and then eat them. The former New York City police officer wound his way through the court system, faced life in prison and then ultimately had his charges dropped when it was determined he was just playing to an audience in a chatroom for unusual fetishes.

I could go on and on about this issue but I do not want to cause you such frustration you cannot function for the rest of your year. The people who made these comments which drew the ire of authorities in the U.K. must be set free with encouragement to not do so again, players and others bothered by terrible behaviour need to utilize the block button more and authorities need to have greater sense of when someone is just describing bad acts as opposed to a firm intent to do them.

If this does not happen, we will end up in a world which will make Orwell seem prophetic. Thought, whether good or bad, is not a crime and neither are terrible but not fighting words.

Top Image: Graffiti warns one “Big Brother” is watching. Via Wikimedia Commons.

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