Wednesday 19 March, 2014
You can talk smack about friends or celebs on Twitter, but be careful about threatening public figures with violence. This was a tough lesson taught to Spanish student Alba González Camacho recently when Spain made her its first conviction for tweeting terrorism.
The tweets in question were a series of tweets attacking Spain and its Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. While there’s nothing wrong about criticizing a government on Tweeter in the civilized world, Camacho went a bit too far. Among other things, she urged terrorist group Grapo to reform and wreak some good old fashioned havoc and assassinate the prime minister. The most offending tweet was an offer by Camacho to tattoo herself with the face of whoever shoots Prime Minister Rajoy in the neck.
Highly Radicalized and Violent Content
Describing herself as a ‘normal girl’ with no political affiliation, her Twitter profile describes her as ‘subversive… with a heart darker than night but a soul red like blood.’ She has Che Guevera and the Soviet flag on her profile. She also said later of the tweets that her attention was to attack a ‘system in which a minority lives on the back of death, misery and exploitation of a majority.’
All good intentions aside, it goes beyond ‘subversive’ to threaten people with violence. That was the ruling of the Spanish court, which called it ‘highly radicalized and violent content.’ According to the court, her actions fall under the definition of glorifying terrorism which is prohibited in the Spanish constitution. Camacho was given a conviction of one year in jail but because she has no prior criminal record, she got off with a plea bargain. One stipulation is that she can’t hold public office for the next seven years.
It may sound like an overreaction on the part of the Spanish court, but you have to consider history. It wasn’t terribly long ago that Spain was run by a fascist left-wing dictatorship. Life was violent and bloody and terrorism was not an unusual thing. It’s no exaggeration to say that language like Camacho’s can touch a real nerve and bring back some terrible memories to a country like that. The aforementioned Grapo was a terrorist organization during the 70s when Spain was becoming a democracy that carried out assassinations in an attempt to restore the fascist order.
This story illustrates the stupidity of tweeting carelessly. However, don’t call it an infringement of free speech or net neutrality. It’s pretty standard that threatening a country’s leader or any other public figure with violence is against the law, whether it’s some crazy shouting in the public square or somebody tweeting to the world.
It’s also not the first time people have been punished in this way for tweeting threats. In January 2014 two British citizens got jail time for threatening violence against a noted feminist and in the same month, a man in the United States got time for threatening to kill President Obama. But this is the first case of a Twitter user getting a terrorist conviction.