Kuwait's Decision To Jail People For 'Insulting' Tweets Sets A Dangerous Precedent

from the not-good-for-freedom dept

Kuwait has generally been a much more open and free society than some of its neighbors in the region, but there's been troubling news lately concerning the decision to put a man in jail for two years for a tweet "insulting the emir" followed quickly by another man getting the same sentence for the same offense. The news reports I've seen have not reported what the tweets actually said, but no matter what, this kind of censorship of political discourse is extremely troubling -- especially given the country's reputation for being more open to political dialogue.
"We've been taken by surprise because Kuwait has always been known internationally and in the Arab world as a democracy-loving country," Humidi said. "People are used to democracy, but suddenly we see the constitution being undermined."
Of course, this is why we were so horrified by a French politician's recent efforts to ask Twitter to help censor tweets for what French government officials deemed "hate speech." Where do you draw the line? Who defines what kind of "hate speech" is being censored. I am sure that the Kuwaiti emir considers the insults directed his way a form of "hate speech," and, from there, you quickly slide into blatant political censorship.

Of course, this seems only likely to backfire in a big way. As more and more people get used to being able to discuss things freely, when a government cracks down on such free speech, they're going to react negatively. Considering that many other countries in that region have used social media as a tool to organize protests and even to eventually overthrow a few governments, it would appear that overly sensitive Kuwaiti officials might want to learn to get thicker skins and learn that the best way to deal with "insulting" speech is to just ignore it.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 1:58pm

    If it can happen in the UK, you would expect it from a country like Kuwait.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Lord Binky, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 2:27pm

    'Hate Speech'

    def: Speech that a person dislikes.

    Example: To avoid hearing hate speech, I stay away from stupid people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 2:38pm

    but suddenly we see the constitution being undermined."

    Never thought we would have something in common with Kuwait.

     

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  4.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 2:38pm

    Re: 'Hate Speech'

    Dont get out much then do you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Lord Binky, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 2:43pm

    Re: Re: 'Hate Speech'

    I'm beside myself when I say something I regret.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 2:57pm

    Re: 'Hate Speech'

    That works great until stupid is everywhere and stupid is increasing exponentially, then what?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: 'Hate Speech'

    the good thing about being beside yourself when that happens is that if you ever have to go soul searching to find yourself, it only takes a few minutes of looking to see which side you are on.

    ba-dum tsh!

     

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  8.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 3:06pm

    while i agree 100% that jailing someone over insulting tweets is not only bad, but incredibly stupid, i think without knowing what the actual insulting content is means we are missing a large part of the picture.

    neither should be punishable by jail time (especially two years) but there is a large difference between:

    the emir is a blathering idiot who does not know the first thing about running his country
    and
    the emir is a stupid poopy-head that smells like bad feta cheese

    after all, if it were in this country, i could be punished (civilly at least) for going on a complete rant denigrating people if in fact, they do not actually smell of rancid feta cheese.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Re: 'Hate Speech'

    Then you stop watching network 'news', turn the tv off, and go read a gorram book or something.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 3:39pm

    isn't it strange how 'a precedent' is never set when something good happens? Kuwait, like so many other countries of that region are run by 'families' and they are so scared of losing their control, they will do anything. much like the entertainment industries, really, and certain other industries and even a lot of Senators!

     

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  11.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jan 9th, 2013 @ 3:46pm

    Re:

    Ooh, ooh, I've got one. How about 'The emir is a thin-skinned child incapable of acting in a mature manner when presented with criticism.'

    Unless the tweets in question were literally threats of bodily harm, there should have been no reason for either of the two people jailed to get anything more than a 'please stop posting such things' message sent their way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    PRMan, Jan 9th, 2013 @ 4:35pm

    Re: 'Hate Speech'

    "Example: To avoid hearing hate speech, I stay away from stupid people."

    I call BS. You're on the internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    DS, Jan 10th, 2013 @ 3:26am

    With all apologies to Steve Albini...

    What a shittly little back alley of a country.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 10th, 2013 @ 4:04am

    Re: Re:

    They should not even of gotten a message, unless the Emir had a good reason to apologise to them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jan 10th, 2013 @ 9:38am

    Re:

    the emir is a blathering idiot who does not know the first thing about running his country
    and
    the emir is a stupid poopy-head that smells like bad feta cheese


    Actually, I don't see a great deal of difference between these two statements at all. They both amount to the same thing: "the emir sucks".

    Both are obvious statements of opinion despite a superficial appearance of statements of fact. And, if they are taken as statements of fact, the vast majority of people would not be in a position to know if the facts are actually true.

    So, if one deserves penalty (even civil penalty), then they both do, and if one does not deserve penalty then neither do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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