Is social media making us over confident or over sensitive?

Our status updates can be amusing to us and offensive to others. But do the authorities sometimes overreact to messages posted on social media sites?

Credit: Klaus with K

Come on admit it. From time to time we have all been tempted to fire back a quick riposte on social media sites after a comment or status update has ruffled our feathers.

I know I have. But sometimes others do not see our joke. Our attempts at humour using insults, irony and sarcasm can sometimes catch us out.

But are we taking offence at others’ sense of humour?

If the comment is posted online is it joking or is it trolling? The authorities often do not see the funny side, and for good reason too.

In January this year US Customs and Border protection detained two British tourists after they tweeted about their trip to Los Angeles.

Lee Van Bryan and Emily Bunting planned to have a relaxing holiday in the US. Before their holiday they told their friends on Twitter:

“Free this week for a quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?” and “3 weeks today, we’re totally in LA p…ing people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up!”

Their tweet was noticed by the US Customs and Border protection team. On their arrival the pair were considered a possible threat to security, refused access to the US and flown back to the UK after spending 12 hours in jail.

Ill-judged tweets can also lead to career wobbles. UK soccer player Ashley Cole was charged by the football Association (FA) in the UK for bringing the game into disrepute after his offensive comment on Twitter.

Cole apologised to David Bernstein, chairman of the FA and so far will continue to play for the England squad.

Australian Thai boxing trainer Wayne Avison has been banned from flying on the airline Scoot after expressing his rage on Facebook.

His delayed flight meant he missed his onwards connection home. He posted that he was “going to high-jack the plane on the return flight and crash it... ''. His status update was posted with a security setting of ‘Public’.

Someone tipped off the airline about his threat. Scoot cancelled Avison’s return flight due to its “obligation to protect the security of passengers and staff and (it) must take such threats seriously”.

Paul Chambers won an appeal in July after his tweet about Robin Hood airport in the UK was considered a security threat. He tweeted: "Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your .... together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"

He was prosecuted under the Communications Act 2003 which prohibits sending “by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character."

In July 2012 Chambers won a challenge against his conviction in the High Court in London.

Craig Lynch discovered that the long arm of the law extends even to Facebook. He boasted about his escape from prison in the UK gathering many Facebook followers. His fan page detailed his exploits and taunted the police.

He was captured after four months on the run and his Facebook page was taken down.

Sometimes in social media, justice does prevail.