updated 11/12/2010 11:28:43 AM ET 2010-11-12T16:28:43

He missed the plane. Now thousands of annoyed Internet users says authorities missed the joke.

When Paul Chambers was arrested and fined for posting a jocular message to micro-blogging site Twitter in which he threatened to blow up northern England's Robin Hood Airport if it didn't reopen in time for his flight, it caused a minor stir.

Now that a court has turned down his appeal, the Internet has come alive with outrage, with thousands of online fans posting comic threats to the regional airport out of solidarity.

Rights groups warn that the so-called "Twitter Joke Trial" had set an ugly precedent for free speech online.

Police and prosecutors "seem to have completely ignored the notion of context, which is a very dangerous thing," said Padraig Reidy of the London-based Index on Censorship. "If he genuinely intended to blow up the airport he wouldn't have tweeted it. It's obviously a joke."

Chambers' lawyer, David Allen Green, said his client's case should never have gone to court.

According to accounts carried on Green's blog and in the British media, the 27-year-old was alarmed when heavy snow closed Robin Hood Airport, which he was due to fly out of in order to see a friend he'd met online.

In a profane message posted to dozens of followers on Jan. 6, he stated: "Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get (it) together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"

The tweet might've faded into the obscurity of Internet had it not been discovered by an airport duty manager browsing the Internet five days later. The manager forwarded the offending tweet on to his station manager, and — even though the threat was deemed "non-credible" — it was passed on to police.

On Jan. 13, a week after Chambers' intemperate post, he was arrested and questioned. Chambers' case file notes that "there is no evidence at this stage that this is anything other than a foolish comment posted on Twitter as a joke for only his close friends to see," but he was charged and convicted in any case.

His appeal was rejected Thursday, to the outrage of Internet users all over the world. Thousands flooded the Internet to repeat Chambers' now-infamous message, many adding the tag: "IAmSpartacus" — a reference to the Stanley Kubrick's 1960 epic "Spartacus," in which the titular hero's fellow rebels all assume his identity in a gesture of solidarity.

South Yorkshire Police, which was responsible for Chambers' original arrest, refused to say whether it was taking moves to arrest the thousands of people now threatening to blow up the airport.

In an e-mail statement, the force seemed eager to put the whole episode behind it, saying that, from its point of view, "the matter is closed."

Green said his client, who has since lost his job, is still considering his legal options.



David Allen Green's blog:

Index on Censorship:

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