“David Kernell was sentenced to prison today for one year and one day as a result of his hacking into the Yahoo account of Sarah Palin during the 2008 Presidential Election. Kernell’s lawyer had hoped for probation, describing the actions of the then 20-year-old college students as “a prank that spun out of control.”
Paul Chambers lost his appeal in a U.K. Crown Court this week, as he sought to overturn his conviction for “improper use of public electronic communications network.” Chambers, when learning that his local airport was closed, Tweeted that it had better reopen or “I’m blowing the airport sky high!!!” - something described as simply “a foolish prank.” /—/”
”/—/ That would have been the end of it. But Mr. Chambers’s impulsive outburst led him down a long and unexpected path, turning him into both a convicted criminal and a cause célèbre for Twitter users and free-speech advocates in Britain and beyond.
/—/ The actor and Twitter enthusiast Stephen Fry offered to pay his court bills. Other users began raising money for a new appeal. And on a new and wildly popular trending topic, #IAmSpartacus (a homage to the Kirk Douglas movie in which rebel slaves in ancient Rome refuse to betray their leader, Spartacus, confusing the enemy by claiming that they are all Spartacus) people began defiantly expressing their solidarity with Mr. Chambers by reposting his offending Twitter message or by threatening to blow up other, random, things. These included Downing Street, the courtroom, the town of Doncaster, Gatwick Airport, Robin Hood the person, the White House, the Basingstoke Hockey Club, “everyone,” “my garage,” some balloons, and NBC (if it canceled “The Event”).
/—/ It was a fluke, really, that brought Mr. Chambers’s stray Twitter message to the attention of the authorities. An airport manager doing a search on Twitter for Robin Hood Airport-related items on his home computer saw the message a few days later and reported it. A few days after that, five police officers arrested Mr. Chambers at work, interrogated him for eight hours and seized his computers and phones.
“Do you have any weapons in your car?” they asked, Mr. Chambers told The Guardian this fall.
“I said I had some golf clubs in the boot,” or trunk, he responded, “but they didn’t think it was funny.””