The Wiltshire Police in the UK issued a warning to internet users that their “boys & gals in blue will find you” if they think you’re being offensive when posting online.
It’s true that trolls can populate many a comments section online, and we all know not to feed the trolls.
The involvement of law enforcement, though, can be a bit alarming, considering what constitutes “abuse” and what is simply free speech in the hands of someone we don’t agree with is debatable.
The Wiltshire Police felt no need to specify what sort of “abuse” is a crime though when issuing their warning on Twitter.
You can’t hide from us if your spewing abuse from behind a computer screen. Our boys & gals in blue will find you 💻 👀#999WhatsYourEmergency
— Wiltshire Police (@wiltshirepolice) July 24, 2017
The post itself is the sort of grammar nightmare vague threat one should expect from an internet troll, and besides public servants threatening the public for “spewing abuse” and “hiding” in their own homes, it was just too funny not to ridicule for some followers.
— Just Juliet (@Emmyjewel) July 25, 2017
Think we need to send the #GrammarPolice around to have a stern word with them…
— Nicholas Kingsley (@real_nkingsley) July 25, 2017
I’d send George Orwell, who was a master of the English language. Unfortunately, he’s spinning too fast in his grave to be able to help.
— LeftyLiesMatter (@SupportOurLefty) July 25, 2017
It seems that the Wiltshire Police were reading through the many critical responses posted, and didn’t find it so funny.
They posted another tweet, saying that they would ban followers who posted “offensive” or “abusive” material.
— Wiltshire Police (@wiltshirepolice) July 25, 2017
Perhaps if so many people think the Wiltshire Police is wasting their time going after funny GIF posters and less than supportive YouTube commentators, the they should rethink their roles as public servants.
National Review reports:
Yes, an Internet without trolls certainly would be more comfortable, and a policy like this may seem tempting — but the truth is, there’s just no comfort that’s worth giving the government the power to ban “offensive” speech. Why? Because what is or is not “offensive” is an entirely subjective matter; something that one person finds offensive, another person might find funny, or even virtuous. The only criteria for deciding whether or not something is “offensive” is the personal sensibilities of the individual or individuals making that decision — and no one should ever give their government the power to block speech based on the feelings of its members.
While the U.K. worries whether or not its police are doing enough to curb the spread of terrorism, telling neck bearded mean tweeters that they “can’t hide” makes the Wiltshire Police look like a sad joke.