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British Teen Arrested Over Tweet To Olympic Diver

Tom Daley (R) and Peter Waterfield of Great Britain compete in the Men's Synchronised 10m Platform Diving Tuesday in London, England.
Clive Rose
Getty Images
Tom Daley (R) and Peter Waterfield of Great Britain compete in the Men's Synchronised 10m Platform Diving Tuesday in London, England.

A mean-spirited tweet has landed a 17-year-old British boy in jail.

It all started when British divers Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield placed fourth in the men's synchronized 10 meter diving event.

As the BBC tells it, Daley's father was "was instrumental in helping his son become one of the world's top divers." But in 2006, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and 2011 he died.

"I'm doing it for myself and my dad," Daley, 18, told the BBC before the event. "It was both our dreams from a very young age."

But after the loss, the teenager — who went by @Rileyy_69 — tweeted: "@TomDaley1994 you let your dad down i hope you know that"

The tweet became infamous, because Daley retweeted it, prefacing it with: "After giving it my get idiot's sending me this."

This morning, The Guardian reports that police arrested the teen on "suspicion of malicious communications."

The Guardian adds that he was arrested under the Malicious Communications Act of 1988, which "makes it an offence to send an electronic communication which conveys a message that is grossly offensive, but only if the sender's purpose is to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient or anyone else to whom he intends to communicate it."

He could face up to six months in prison or a hefty 5,000-pound fine. The discussion now is whether British authorities have gone too far. What do you think?

On a side note, Mark wrote about Twitter suspending and then reinstating the account of a journalist who criticized NBC's coverage of the Olympics. And our friend Bill, wrote about other social controversies over at The Torch, NPR's Olympics blog.

Update at 3:47 p.m. ET. Further Tweets:

The Huffington Post UK has been following this story closely. They report that @Rileyy_69, after trying to apologize, then threatened to drown Daley. @Rileyy_69 has since made his account private.

Update at 3:08 p.m. ET. Another Case:

There's at least one other case along these lines worth noting: As we told you back in March, a British student was sentenced to 56 days in jail for "posting racist tweets about a soccer player who collapsed on the pitch."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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