Two very different 'bomb threats'
Eugh... what can I say. To go with the threats of rape, abuse and violence that female journalists and activists are experiencing, someone has now decided to add bomb threats into the mix. Hadley Freeman, one of the journalists targeted by this threat has been quoted as saying:
There was that guy arrested for threatening to blow up an airport. If it's illegal to threaten to bomb an airport, it's illegal to threaten to bomb me.
Despite her description of the #TwitterJokeTrial tweet as a threat when it clearly wasn't, I think the point she's trying to make is that this is clearly a much more investigation- and charge-worthy tweet than Chambers' infamous tweet.
But because there will, undoubtably, be more comparisons like this, I think it's important to look at the tweets and see how they differ so that we can identify when to be outraged and when not.
So, Paul Chambers' tweet:
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!!
and the new tweet(s) from user 98JU98U989:
@user A BOMB HAS BEEN PLACED OUTSIDE YOUR HOME. IT WILL GO OFF AT EXACTLY 10:47PM ON A TIMER AND TRIGGER DESTROYING EVERYTHING
So, what can we immediately see:
- Chambers' tweet's use of "Crap!" and other exclamation marks along with a threat relating to the weather clearly show that Chambers is engaging in hyperbole. The tweet from 98JU98U898 is not over the top in that fashion.
- Chambers' gives "a week and a bit" to "get your shit together". These are hardly specific threats or demands. While 98JU98U898 doesn't make any demands, the threat itself is very specific with the timing.
- Chambers' tweet mentions Robin Hood Airport in the middle of the tweet without the appropriate addressing syntax to directly involve them - it is aimed at the subset of the public who are following him (although accessible further). 98JU98U898 on the other hand specifically starts the tweet by mentioning the target using Twitter's syntax to include them in the tweet regardless of being whether they are following or not. By being at the start of the tweet it is not just including the target but directly addressing the target.
All of these things make the tweet from 98JU98U898 much more threatening and much more serious.
There are some other thing that I can make some educated guesses at, but without access to the user account and various other things as will become clear, are nothing but speculation on my part:
- Chambers' posted his tweet from a personal account obviously connected with him, featuring his name and photo and which was used very obviously in a personal capacity for some time. 98JU98U898 on the other hand has no picture (the egg picture is the default for when nothing is uploaded). The user name is not, as far as I know, directly identifiable as any person or campaign - police and the targets may have additional information about this - if they do then chances are this only increases the seriousness of the threat. I am guessing that the account had no followers and was used for nothing but this campaign.
Although speculation, this point about anonymity does affect how seriously the tweet should be treated. When assessing a threat, there are two things to think about - the likelihood of the tweet being a threat with a genuine expectation of it being carried out and the severity of the outcome of the threat. Chambers' tweet showed no genuine likelihood that the threat would or could be carried out. 98JU98U898's threat has many more serious markings and the seriousness only increases if there is other intelligence relating to the name.
This is why it would be appropriate to investigate 98JU98U898's tweet further and why it will probably be appropriate to prosecute but the prosecution of Chambers' was massively inappropriate. It is also why it is important not to conflate the two tweets as "bomb threats" without a lot more care and attention.