Arrested for tweeting

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What in the hell motivates the tweeting craze? Twitter seems insane to me. If all my Language Log posts had to be 140 chars I wouldnt be abl

And people wreck their lives tweeting. A UK politician's "joke" suggesting a muslim writer should be stoned to death got him arrested by th

(Dont forget, China is not the only country where you can get arrested simply for online comments; the UK too has no constitutional guarant

And a frustrated UK airline traveler who wrote in jest about "blowing the airport skyhigh" has been fined a total of $3000 for "menacing" tw

Its clear that the lives of these Twitter users would've been far happier and less fraught if they had never heard of Twitter. So why the fu

Comment if you wish but your comments will be strictly limited to 140 ASCII characters. I dont see why you guys should get more leeway than


  1. Mark H-A said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

    ☞ It’s 140 Unicode characters actually ✍☺

  2. Theo Vosse said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

    it seems people who
    can't count to ten can count to
    a hundred forty

  3. Larry said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

    People are pressed for time but still want to be heard (81 chars including these)

  4. Lars Karlsson said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

    "Write short and sensible to stay happy. What you write on Twitter have consequences."


  5. buddhamagnet said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

    Tweeting is hardly a craze, the site has been around for over four years now. People wreck their lives in all manner of ways – not just on

    [I did warn you. —GKP]

  6. arkessian said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

    I wonder how many utterances in day-to-day conversation need more than 140 letters? "Look at this" certainly doesn't.

  7. Sili said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

    "Facebook is for lying to your friends, while on Twitter you tell the whole world the truth."

  8. C Thornett said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

    English man says stone Muslim woman = OK? Muslim says stone non Muslim = not OK?

  9. KCinDC said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

    C Thornett, is there no line between "OK" and "worthy of arrest"?

  10. KCinDC said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

    Sorry, I shouldn't have contributed to the thread derail.

  11. Sili said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

    @Lars Karlsson But those consequences can be the exposure and overthrow of a corrupt, fascistoid regime.

  12. twitter poet said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

    what the hell motivates poets? poetry seems insane to me. if all my tweets had to be in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme, I wouldn’t be

  13. Dick Margulis said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

    Now we understand:
    One who disdains editors
    hates Twitter's limit.

  14. bornyesterday said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

    Twitter is only as sensical, useful as you make it. & if you use it to break laws, you should expect punishment. Stupid as the laws may be.

  15. SimonMH said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

    140 is enough for a rhyme
    (a Tweet can be a poet's friend;
    a stanza now and then in time)
    too many can drive you round the bend.

  16. xyzzyva said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

    I'm not sure that constitutional protection of threatening speech is something to glorify, nor is it necessarily covered by Amendment 1.

    [Glorify?? Not me. But it is worth at least considering that sarcastic humor might fall short of an arrestable offense. —GKP]

  17. Tim said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

    Digital Humanists use Twitter to find and share links (not to blog).

  18. Bellhalla said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

    While you're at it, @GKP, tell all the Twitterers to get off your lawn, too! :)

  19. C Thornett said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

    @KCinDC: Too much violence against women not taken seriously. Too many women killed.

    [I'd better make this absolutely clear: I think Gareth Compton is a total asshole; it is excellent that he has been kicked out of his party. —GKP]

  20. Barry said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

    In the spirit of tweeters around the world, please permit me to exemplify their eloquence of speech through the following quote: OMG WTF LOL

  21. Zeborah said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

    140 characters is plenty for most thoughts; and if a thought can't be edited down, it's still enough for the url of your blogpost. :-)

  22. Dan Lufkin said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

    We could require that
    Twitters appear in Haiku;
    Keeps out dilettantes.

  23. Thomas Westgard said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of sp

  24. Alexandre said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 3:56 pm

    The fact that these characters are Unicode has implications. Many of my tweets are bilingual English/French, with exoteric/esoteric humour..

  25. Maria Wolters said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

    Twitter isn't the problem, but daft laws and failure to understand pragmatics of medium.

  26. John Cowan said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 4:12 pm


  27. bornyesterday said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

    @Barry – I used "efficacy" and "mien" in a tweet just the other day. Twitter can challenge a writer to increased precision and conciseness.

  28. Alex R said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    The UK protects free speech (Human Rights Act is an important constitutional document). Advocating violence = unprotected, though. #nitpick

  29. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 4:43 pm

    @xyzzyva: The Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment *does* protect incitement (except if *imminent* violence is likely).

  30. Mark Eli Kalderon said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

    @Mark H-A slightly more complicated, the character count is based on the number of codepoints in the NFC normalized version of the text and

    [And not UTF-8 bytes, you wanted to say. But I did warn you. —GKP]

  31. Leonardo Boiko said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 5:01 pm

    日本語で140文字は多いだと思います。 日本語のテキストはとても濃縮です。中国語もかんぺきでしょう。ところで、僕は日本語が下手ですが、よろしくね。

    You can say a lot in 140 kanji/hànzì =)

  32. Leonardo Boiko said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

    @Dan: counting syllables ≠ haiku. real haiku have a season-word and are set in a imagistic, direct point of view. English syllables aren’t e

  33. Q. Pheevr said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 6:10 pm

    A death threat's a death threat, verbose or laconical;
    the cops just can't tell if it's real or ironical.

  34. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 6:14 pm

    @Leonardo Boiko: "Real haiku" sounds suspiciously prescriptivist. I don't think norma loquendi will back you up on this one.

  35. Vicki said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 6:18 pm

    Some say they don't have time to write more. I don't have time to write that little. To each their own.

  36. Conlan said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 6:45 pm

    If I can't think of a use for something, it must be insane. Like blogs, circa 1999.

  37. Dave said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

    Euro Convention on Human Rights: See article 10, esp for restrictions.

  38. Sili said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

    @Alex R: Making a joke /= Advocating violence. Inability to take joke as joke = fascistoid regime. TSA = joke, but not a funny one.

  39. David Costa said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 7:04 pm

    "The Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment *does* protect incitement (except if *imminent* violence is likely)."

    Um, last I checked, the Supreme Court's rulings didn't apply in the UK.

  40. Faldone said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

    What motivates this craze? Twitter seems insane to me. If all my LangLog posts had to be 140 chars I wouldnt be able to communicate anything.

  41. Dave said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 7:21 pm

    Law used to charge: Chambers' tweet found to be 'menacing' by judge. No jury.

  42. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

    @David Costa: Exactly; hence the comparison. (See Geoff's third tweet, and xyzzyva's tweet that I replied to.)

  43. Chris Buckey said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

    I'm so glad I'm not the only one who just doesn't get Twitter.

  44. Leonardo Boiko said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

    @Ran: precisely because speakers call any sentence in 5-7-5 English sillables “haiku”, I’m forced to write “real haiku” for the actual genre

  45. Ray Dillinger said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

    I think Twitter is silly. Like this misapplication of law. And the misjudgment that incited it.

  46. Dave said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 9:14 pm

    @Ran Ari-Gur: but US citizens don't have unrestricted free speech either, see eg or 18 USC Sec 871.

  47. Lance said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 9:15 pm

    Of course you wouldn't want to write 140-char LL posts; but different media have different uses. Twitter's good for sharing short thoughts.

  48. Caitlin Burke said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

    I really enjoy Twitter, and I was all set to be angered by this post, and then it went and made me laugh.

  49. Dan T. said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

    I don't like Twitter's lack of threading; tweets can point at users and topics, but not specific other tweets being replied to.

  50. Faldone said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 11:17 pm

    Twitter might be silly but it was the main source of information on the protests following the 2009 Iranian elections.

  51. Joseph said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

    One thing I've been thinking about is, posting a complete thought in Japanese in 140 characters is easier than it is in English.

  52. Graeme said,

    November 13, 2010 @ 11:50 pm

    Facebook, Facebook
    Boast on my wall.
    Twitter, Twitter,
    Broadcast to all.

  53. Jed Davis said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 12:23 am

    @-reply tweets do have threading info. Some clients can send it; others can display it. I believe these sets are unordered by inclusion.

  54. Mr Fnortner said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 12:35 am

    Insightful tweet from Twitter's chairman, Jack Dorsey: "One could change the world with one hundred and forty characters."

  55. fog said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 12:43 am

    follow people who share cool articles, info, and pictures, and don't say much yourself. that is my approach to Twitter and it works great.

  56. ke said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 1:00 am

  57. Aaron Toivo said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 1:33 am

    book RL test: xkcd irc chan b&s 4 typing any string already logged; proves small hindrance 2 chat

  58. kael said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 1:39 am

    Whee! This is twitterish. I've never tweeted before. Too bad I've nothing useful to say. Playing with character constraints is probably gre

    [You wanted to say "great fun". But I did warn you.—GKP]

  59. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 2:10 am

    @Dave: No, of course not, and I don't think anyone was suggesting that.

  60. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 2:19 am


    (Noel Coward)

  61. Clarissa at Talk to the Clouds said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 3:57 am

    140 characters is enough to share thoughts, research, & grumbles related to English teaching, though Chinese colleagues have an advantage.

  62. C Thornett said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 8:21 am

    Twitter can give a new outlet to bullies, racists, sexists, homophopes, who then ask 'Can't you take a joke?'

  63. Dan Lufkin said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

    @ Leonard B:

    Leaves fall while I try
    To adjust the mora count.
    What a waste of time!

  64. Kaushik Janardhanan said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

    If one really must provide full sentences at the very minimum, let alone multiple sentences, we can always base64 encrypt the sentences and

    [There's just no warning some people, is there? Right into the buzz saw. —GKP]

  65. Army1987 said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 7:03 pm

    I've never twitted, but most of my utterances would fit into less^Wfewer ;-) than 140 characters anyway if written down. Including this one.

  66. hoelty said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

    Twitter's primarily used by adults, and often to exchange useful information. A lot of educators I know, for example, use twitter especially, and other forms of social media, to share links and ask for info/help with stuff.

    Tweeting has its own niche and purposes. No need to be condescending about it.

  67. groki said,

    November 14, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

    slouching toward the deictic singularity, we excite or inhibit whichever cells of the body politic we can reach. behold: neurotransTwitters.

  68. C Thornett said,

    November 15, 2010 @ 4:59 am

    The character restriction promotes absolute over reasoned statements. OK for arranging social life, not so OK for social/political comment.

  69. Blake Stacey said,

    November 15, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

    Twitter: the 1-to-many telegraph, with all the ups and downs that implies.

  70. ENKI-][ said,

    November 15, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

    Twitter's restrictions encourage a welcome and rare conciseness.

  71. Michael Akerman said,

    November 16, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

    I can expect people to read a whole tweet. I can't expect them to read a whole blog post. Twitter is the crucible of persuasive conciseness.

  72. John Cowan said,

    November 16, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

    Jerry Friedman: s/HIM/THEM/, surely?

  73. KevinM said,

    November 16, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

    Oh, the Slithergadee
    Has come out of the sea.
    He’ll catch all the others,
    But he wo —
    –Shel Silverstein

  74. Pat L said,

    November 16, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

    Twit what fits; embiggen to blog; write a book for an extended look.

  75. Aaron Davies said,

    November 18, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

    you're all aware his "target" was defending stoning, aren't you?

  76. StephenM3 said,

    November 19, 2010 @ 12:54 am

    Nobody is forced to write EVERYTHING in 140 chars. Most people who use Twitter also have a website, blog, email or forums. It's good for spreading status updates and quick links to people who are interested in things you want to share.

    You've effectively demonstrated how limiting a blog or a comments section to 140 characters is unreasonable. These are places people usually want to express full ideas and elaborate on them. Twitter is not a place to discuss things in-depth. People use Twitter to point friends and fans to full content and ideas that are located elsewhere.

    For instance, a popular artist wouldn't write a coloring tutorial in a twitter post. She'd do it on her blog. But she might write "I'll be at City Art Convention, find me at booth 114!" or "Check out these sketches I did (link)" or "Many of you have emailed asking how I do my colors, so I just wrote a tutorial on my blog."

  77. W. Kiernan said,

    November 19, 2010 @ 4:08 pm

    Aw heck, I thought someone would post a comment where chopping after char #140 would leave a naughty word at the end.

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