Think before you tweet: Why two teenagers were refused entry to the U.S.

Summary:Two teenagers were refused entry to the United States after a series of tweets were taken somewhat out of context. Another reminder to think before you tweet.

Amid the funny wigs and the undue pomp in the traditional British courtroom, it seems that our distant American cousins fail to share our often-poor taste in humour.

When one teenager tweeted his friend claiming that he was going to "destroy America", it appears that U.S. authorities took the public message somewhat too seriously.

At least the other teenager did not respond by joking about "diggin' Marilyn Monroe up". Oh, wait.

To their surprise, however, when they arrived at L.A. International, they were not only detained and questioned at length by U.S. authorities, but were swiftly -- after a night in the cells, naturally -- plonked back on a plane back to England, and barred from entering the United States again.

One U.S. Homeland Security agent allegedly told the hapless teenager: "You’ve really f***ed up with that tweet, boy." At least on this side of the pond, one can bet that Her Majesty's finest would not be so rude.

The famous quote goes: "England and America are two countries separated by a common language." In this case, it could not be closer to the truth.

Just as something classified as "sick" can describe both a good, and a rather vomitous situation in English slang, so can the word "destroy". And "crumpet", come to think of it.

The two teenagers will not be allowed to return to the United States without prior authorisation from the U.S. Embassy in London.

It's not the first time a Twitter user has fallen foul of the law, however. In 2010, Paul Chambers fell foul of Section 127 of the UK's Communications Act 2003, which describes how one tweet was of "indecent, obscene, or menacing character". He only threatened to blow up an airport in a fit of anger.

But little did the authorities realise was the scale of the reaction by the wider Twitterverse, including some high-profile users. In amidst a hashtag revolution, over 5,000 users had taken to make joke-'threats' of their own.

When reporters asked whether the local police force would prosecute the lot of them, they reportedly replied with a rather succinct: "No."

It just goes to show that even seemingly innocent descriptors can be taken wholly out of context. Anyone who has been through the U.S. border will know it is wise not to make any smart cracks, witty remarks, or frankly show any emotion for that matter.

It nevertheless serves as a reminder to think very carefully before you tweet.

Image source: Spencer E. Holtaway/Flickr.

Related:

 

Topics: Censorship, United Kingdom

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.