Will Slow-Moving Laws Ever Catch Fast-Moving Tech?

A British man convicted of sending a "menacing" Tweet has been exonerated by appealing to a law passed in 1935. How will our legal system ever accommodate the speed of technology? 

What's the Latest Development?


Paul Chambers, a British national convicted for posting a Tweet in which, out of frustration at the closure of an airport due to inclement weather, he threatened to blow the airport "sky high," has been exonerated. "After a long legal battle Mr. Chambers had his May 2010 conviction quashed Friday on the basis that the tweet did not constitute or include a message of a menacing character." At one point during the trail, it was pointed out that the same legal standard could be used to convict Sir John Betjeman, the British poet who wrote, "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough," a town near London whose drab reputation made it the ideal setting for "The Office", the UK sitcom about the drudgery of office work. 

What's the Big Idea?

The case highlights the difficulty of applying a slow-moving legal framework to fast-moving technology. Though Chambers was prosecuted for violating the Communications Act of 2003, the court's ruling makes reference to the Post Office Act of 1935, which references any "message by telephone, or any telegram." Some say the legal system will always being playing catch up when it comes to prosecuting high-tech crimes. And while a possible solution could be to make laws with broad-based definitions, that risks criminalizing future behavior which, following the dictates of common sense (the legal system's age-old nemesis), should clearly be permitted.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Keep reading Show less

Believe in soulmates? You're more likely to 'ghost' romantic partners.

Does believing in true love make people act like jerks?

Thought Catalog via Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • Ghosting, or cutting off all contact suddenly with a romantic partner, is not nice.
  • Growth-oriented people (who think relationships are made, not born) do not appreciate it.
  • Destiny-oriented people (who believe in soulmates) are more likely to be okay with ghosting.
Keep reading Show less

Mini-brains attach to spinal cord and twitch muscles

A new method of growing mini-brains produces some startling results.

(Lancaster, et al)
Surprising Science
  • Researchers find a new and inexpensive way to keep organoids growing for a year.
  • Axons from the study's organoids attached themselves to embryonic mouse spinal cord cells.
  • The mini-brains took control of muscles connected to the spinal cords.
Keep reading Show less