As reported by David Allen Green at New Statesman, The High Court is unable to agree on the Twitter Joke Trial appeal. Chambers was convicted by Doncaster Magistrates’ Court under section 127(1) of the Communications Act for sending a ‘menacing’ communication—a tweet. In the short article, he notes:

A split divisional court is exceptional, and it appears that this may be only the second time it has happened this century.

Something that’s less exceptional is news organisations continually misquoting the original tweet. Here it is in its entirety, courtesy of The Guardian:

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!!

Note a few things here. There’s the opening word: “Crap!” If you’re being a menace with intent to blow something up, it’s safe to say you probably won’t start with that word. If you’re writing a goofy tweet, in part due to your frustration at an airport being closed, on the other hand… There’s that double exclamation point at the end, just to nail home the fact this is a joke. And there’s the fact that it’s very obviously a joke, unless you’re some kind of bone-headed simpleton.

So well done, BBC News, for misquoting the tweet yet again [UPDATE: After quite a lot of fuss online, the article was updated at about 5pm UK time, including the swearing but still omitting the second exclamation mark. However, plenty of sources picked up on the BBC News report and haven’t updated their copy, so much of the damage remains. UPDATE UPDATE: The BBC presumably kicked to death a sub-editor and now includes both exclamation marks. PHEW! Although as ‘andrew’ points out in the comments, now ‘and a bit’ is MIA, so perhaps that sub-ed shouldn’t have been kicked to death after all.]:

The message Chambers tweeted said: “Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit… otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!”

Just so you can see what’s going on here, I’ve helpfully placed in bold the bits the BBC cut:

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!!

The original tweet is clearly a dumb joke, but the BBC edit actually does appear menacing. Dire, misleading reporting like this at the very least doesn’t help one of the more ridiculous tech-oriented verdicts in British history get overturned; worse, it rather backs the arguments from the CPS and others that this was a menacing tweet when it wasn’t. It’s been claimed by the CPS that the original tweet lacked context (ignoring the context of the rest of Chambers’ feed, presumably), and yet the BBC strips context from the tweet by removing a huge chunk of it, and doesn’t state that the words have been edited. What’s the problem? Isn’t there enough space on the infinite web to run the whole thing? Does the BBC have to pay for each letter it uploads? It’s a bloody disgrace.

If you’re feeling significantly angry about the whole thing, more money is needed for the next stage of this seemingly never-ending slice of stupid by the British authorities, and so if you can spare a few quid, donate to the trial fund.

UPDATE: Tons of people on Twitter have said they think the edit is down to the BBC removing profanity. That’s still not acceptable. First, the article states clearly that the quote is what Chambers said. That in itself isn’t technically inaccurate, but the article also does not say the quote was edited. Secondly, the BBC did not link to the full source. Thirdly, there are ways around the profanity issue—the BBC could have part censored the offending words in the tweet (‘sh*t’ or ‘s——’, for example), and stated that in the copy. Finally, it also removed the second exclamation point, presumably for style guid reasons, but this again affects the context of the tweet and distorts it from the original meaning.

Sadly, the BBC is not alone. The Guardian’s latest take includes the edited tweet (despite the same writer printing it in full in 2010) and runs with the not-at-all-loaded headline: ‘Twitter joke trial: man who threatened to blow up airport wins fresh hearing’. Classy. [UPDATE: The Guardian article now has a new headline, ‘Twitter joke trial: new hearing for man who tweeted about blowing up airport’, and the full tweet text, including both exclamation marks.]

The BBC and Guardian journalist have now responded to me regarding the points made in this post.