By Haroon Siddique
#IAmSpartacus campaign explodes on Twitter in support of airport joker
Thousands of tweeters repeat bombing joke in support of Paul Chambers, who lost his appeal against conviction
Twitter users angered by the conviction of a man who threatened to blow up an airport in a Twitter joke showed support for him in their thousands today, thumbing their noses at the law by republishing the words that landed him in trouble.
Paul Chambers, a 27-year-old accountant, yesterday lost his appeal against his conviction and £1,000 fine for a comment he made in jest when he was concerned that he might miss a flight to Belfast.
“Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!” he wrote in January.
Chambers was controversially prosecuted under a law aimed at nuisance calls – originally to protect “female telephonists at the Post Office” in the 1930s – rather than specific bomb hoax legislation, which requires stronger evidence of intent.
Civil liberties lawyers criticised his conviction, as did the Twitter community, which reacted with a vengeance to his failed appeal today.
Under the hashtag #IAmSpartacus – a reference to the film in which Spartacus’s fellow gladiators show their solidarity with him by each proclaiming “I am Spartacus” – thousands of people have copied Chambers’s original message.
As a result of the show of support for him, #IAmSpartacus was the most popular worldwide subject being referred to on Twitter at the time of writing.
Among those who have retweeted the message are the television presenter Davina McCall and comedians David Mitchell, Dave Gorman, Graham Linehan and Marcus Brigstocke.
The writer India Knight also joined in with a reference to the Conservative councillor Gareth Crompton, who was arrested yesterday under the same “nuisance call” law for reportedly tweeting: “Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death?”
Knight tweeted: “Actually I might call for Robin Hood airport to be stoned. Ha. Yes. #fearless #IAmSpartacus.”
A number of people have also added a “twibbon” mocking the judgment to their profile pictures with the words “may be a joke” imposed over their profile pictures so it appears alongside their tweets.
The online campaign was started by @christt, who tweeted yesterday evening: “I think we should all tweet Paul Chambers’ original joke, Spartacus style. Thousands of us. Would that work? #twitterjoketrial”
He then decided to take his own advice, publishing a word for word copy of Chambers’s tweet.
The judge who rejected Chambers’s appeal is unlikely to see the funny side of it, having dismissed his lawyers’ arguments that he should not be punished for a “foolish prank”.
Judge Jacqueline Davies called the tweet “menacing in its content and obviously so. It could not be more clear. Any ordinary person reading this would see it in that way and be alarmed”.
She also ordered Chambers to pay a further £2,000 legal bill for the latest proceedings. Stephen Fry has already offered, through Twitter, to pay Chambers’s fine.
Chambers lost his financial manager’s job after his arrest in January. He sent his message to a contact called @crazycolours, a woman from Northern Ireland who was among 650 people who regularly followed his 140-character tweets.