A man in the UK has been arrested on charges of inciting racial hatred on social media, after he tweeted about asking a Muslim woman to “explain” the terror attacks in Brussels. As The Guardian reports, London’s Metropolitan Police on Wednesday arrested a 46-year-old man believed to be Matthew Doyle, a partner at a London PR agency.
Earlier Wednesday, Doyle tweeted: “I confronted a Muslim women [sic] yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said “Nothing to do with me” a mealy mouthed reply.” His comment was posted after bombings at the Brussels airport and at a metro station killed at least 31 people and wounded 300 others. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
“THANKS ALL YOU TWEETERS FOR PROVING I CAN STILL DO PR.”
The tweet was later deleted, though not before it went viral, sparking a backlash that was covered by some news outlets. Doyle also appears to have embraced the controversy, posting links to coverage of his tweets and retweeting users who criticized him. Doyle later defended his tweet, using a racial epithet to describe Muslims, and thanked his followers “for proving I can still do PR.” (That tweet included the same epithet.)
The UK has strict laws on inciting racial hatred online, and some arrests have led to convictions. Critics have in the past accused authorities of being overzealous in their policing of online speech, including one case in which a man was arrested over an online threat that was clearly a joke. (The conviction was overturned.) Twitter, Facebook, and Google have also sought to crack down on hate speech in Europe, where the refugee crisis has inflamed xenophobia and racial tensions online.