Two years

The guy who made death threats on Facebook has been jailed.

A British man who threatened to kill 200 people in the US, in posts he made under a false name on Facebook, has been jailed for more than two years.

Reece Elliott, 24, of Foss Way, South Shields, made the threat in February on online memorial pages for two Tennessee girls killed in car accidents.

About 3,000 pupils in Warren County missed school the next day as a result.

Elliott, who pleaded guilty at Newcastle Crown Court in April, was jailed for two years and four months.

Huh. Isn’t he just a troll? Aren’t we supposed to ignore trolls? Isn’t that the rule?

Sentencing Elliott to 28 months in jail, Judge James Goss QC, the Recorder of Newcastle, told him the offences were driven by “no more than self-indulgent nastiness”.

Right. Like all trolls. So we’re supposed to ignore them. Aren’t we?



  1. says

    I’m torn. I like the fact that the threats were dealt with…but he also plead guilty to “eight [counts] of sending grossly offensive messages” and I can’t get behind laws like that. Every country has some quirky laws, but I really hope the UK starts to revise the limits on free speech that deal with ‘offense’.

  2. says

    Yeah similar legislation, badly applied, led to the Robin Hood Airport fiasco, joke about blowing up the airport on Twitter and get your life ruined.

    Nasty comments on Twitter and Facebook are no less bullying and immoral for not being illegal. The danger when theocrats are trying to get blasphemy laws enacted in Europe to deal with “offense” is that this slippery slope ends up there. I’d like to see the social networks do more about the bullying and harassment on their platforms not leave it to the law which will only deal with the most extreme examples and do little to deter people. A good proxy or TOR would have got this person off the hook and has presumably saved many others from prosecution. Catching a few people too dim to use them gives the appearance of something being done, without actually doing much.

  3. Maureen Brian says

    Matt & oolon,

    The application of the law was clarified after the Robin Hood Airport case went all the way to the top and the Lord Chief Justice ruled that the prosecutors had made the wrong judgement call. Details are here.

  4. MyaR says

    I was reading the police report in my hometown newspaper yesterday (small, working class town in Wisconsin), and was delighted by several things. First, that senior citizens are reporting telemarketing scams and the police pursue them, and secondly, a report that a man reported his ex-girlfriend for posting harassing messages on Facebook. The officer confirmed that they were harassing, contacted the woman and informed her that harassment was an offense, and warned her that she could be cited for it if she did it again. So there’s progress out there.

  5. rrede says

    Off topic–but I thought you all would be interested in reading about the Ada Initiative’s photography policy at conferences:

    The Ada Initiative recently asked women about their experiences with conference photography. Women reported that photography made it difficult to avoid letting stalkers or abusers knowing where they are, such as abusive parents or ex-partners. Some women experienced trolling, harassment and death threats triggered by new photos of themselves appearing online. Several women even have a dedicated group of stalkers who edit any new photo of themselves to sexually humiliate or threaten them. Other women are merely tired of being photographed like rare zoo animals, or their photos being used to promote conferences without their permission. More information on why some women dislike photography at geek events can be found on the Geek Feminism Wiki.

  6. lorn says

    There are three components as to how these things can be handled: context, reputation, and the credibility of the threat.

    Among friends in private, or more public settings if clues to context are included that tell people it is just talk or performance (a or smiley helps a lot) you can make bold threats.

    If you have a reputation as a joker or performance artist you get more leeway than a person who has a reputation for straight talk. A prior history of actions in line with threats makes it all more likely to be taken seriously.

    Of course if anyone is going to be taken seriously the threat needs to be some action that is possible if not entirely likely. Threaten to snuff out the sun and everyone laughs. Threaten to shoot someone, in an age when shootings are common, and killing 200 is not an impossibility, and people have every reason to take you at your word.

    That last part is important. If someone makes a threat it is not unreasonable to take them at their word. Once taken seriously the wheels of the justice system begin to turn. Those wheels consume money, time and resources that are always in short supply. Resources used attempting to shield society from a possible threat cannot be spent providing services. Intemperate speech is not free for the surrounding society.

    But a lot of this comes down to context. Shout FIRE in a crowded theater when there is an actual fire and you may be a hero. Shout the same thing without any actual fire and you are committing a crime.

  7. grumpyoldfart says

    When he gave himself up he probably thought he’d be regarded as a brave young man prepared to admit his mistakes and deserving of an acquittal.

    I laughed when I heard that he’d copped a two year stretch.

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