Rather unexpectedly, I found myself in a room at the Millennium Library in Norwich this evening with my friend Wayne Bolt (co-host of the Spiffing Review podcast) talking to Liberal Democrat MP Simon Wright about the Twitter Joke Trial and the Digital Economy Act.
This came about after Wayne noticed that Mr Wright, MP for Norwich South where we live, had several surgeries scheduled over the next few weeks, including one today. We hastily made an appointment, deciding to talk to him while the Twitter Joke Trial was still top news.
Neither of us knew Mr Wright’s stance on the Twitter Joke Trial. During the General Election we established that he was generally opposed to the Digital Economy Bill, but never went into much detail. We were both braced for the possibility of an MP that would defend the CPS, stating that Paul Chambers was an idiot that deserved punishing for tweeting in this environment of danger and terrorism.
“So this is about the ludicrous Twitter conviction?” he announced before we’d even sat down, denying us the opportunity of a satisfying, fist-smashing-on-table rant.
What followed was a brief but encouraging conversation with a politician who seemed to have a good grasp of the issues and discussed eloquently quite diverse topics surrounding both the Twitter Joke Trial and Digital Economy Act.
There didn’t seem to be much convincing to do, so instead we focused on trying to give Mr Wright as many of the facts as possible, elaborating on the origins of the ridiculous law that has encircled Paul Chambers; the straw man argument of using ‘times we live in’ rationale for a law that has nothing to do with terrorism; the impact of this legislation on British culture, business and therefore its economy in the 21st century; the consequent stifling of innovation and pushing of internet businesses abroad; how neither Paul Chambers nor Gareth Compton should be matters for the criminal courts; how web blocking could destroy user generated content and online communities in the UK; and how the global spread of the #twitterjoketrial and #iamspartacus hashtags have turned the United Kingdom into an international laughing stock and object of disbelief.
Wayne even managed to compare the current era to that of the Industrial Revolution, noting how that particular change led to two hundred years of general prosperity for the country and that failing to embrace the Digital Revolution would lead to two hundred years of self-inflicted failure.
Mr Wright has promised to write to the Home Secretary to raise these concerns. I will be contacting Mr Wright this weekend with additional information and links to relevant resources so that he has everything to hand.
If you have any useful links relating to the Twitter Joke Trial or the Digital Economy Act please let me know ASAP so that I can forward them to Simon Wright.
I will, of course, be keeping a close eye on this and will keep you all posted once we get a response from Theresa May’s office.