Arrest for Racist Tweets Against Fabrice Muamba Show How Serious a Twitter Crime Can Be

On Saturday, 23-year-old Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the field during the FA Cup quarter-final. Suffering from a cardiac arrest, the footballer lay fighting for his life in front of 36,000 spectators, leaving fans and rivals alike chanting his name in support.

Meanwhile, as the drama unfolded on the field, a man in Wales named Liam Stacey began posting cruel, racist comments about Muamba on Twitter, including "LOL. F*ck Muamba. He's dead!!! #haha."

While Stacey clearly figured he could post whatever he wanted on the social media network, police felt otherwise. The 21-year-old student now faces potential jail time for his outbursts, proving yet again that what we say on Twitter has consequences—and in this particular case, that a drunken night of tweeting can suddenly turn into a very serious hate crime offense.


Stacey, a Swansea University student from Pontypridd, Wales, was brought into police custody after his comments were reported by Twitter users from across Britain, including a prominent former footballer named Stan Collymore. Stacey originally tried to claim that the tweets weren't his and that his account had been hacked, but eventually admitted that he'd been drinking since early afternoon on Saturday while watching the rugby match.

He pleaded
guilty to incitement to racial hatred, and told police,

I was at the bar when I heard what had happened to Muamba. I don't know why I posted it. (…) I'm not racist and some of my friends are from different cultural backgrounds.

After the original "F*ck Muamba" tweet, Stacey apparently went on to attack several Twitter users who took offense with his comment, and the responses he sent were wildly racist. If you can stomach it, here's a video of his alleged Twitter stream:

He certainly changed his tone during the more recent tweets, didn't he? Apparently he texted a friend at one point and said: "I said something about Muamba that I shouldn't have and tweeted back to some people who abused me. Getting police on me now which isn't good at all."

Stacey's since been released on bail pending sentencing, and he has been banned from Twitter and all other social networking websites. Who knows what will happen to the guy, but it's possible his ill-advised tweets may land him in jail.

The idea of being incarcerated for sending hateful tweets on Twitter is pretty startling, wouldn't you say? I mean, it's hard for me to imagine what sort of person could ever say the things Stacey posted last weekend, but his subsequent arrest makes you think about the role of social media and hate crimes. In the U.S., students have been suspended for racial attacks on Twitter, but posting offensive tweets has yet to land anyone in jail—yet.

Who knows how things will change in the future, but one thing seems perfectly clear: Twitter is taken seriously these days, and the things we say can't be taken back. Once it's out there, it's public information forever … for bad or for good.

Do you think people should be held legally accountable for offensive comments they make on Twitter?

Image via YouTube

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