Oh dear. It's Liam Stacey all over again. Remember Liam Stacey? He's the obnoxious, silly little boy who tweeted his racially abusive glee at the death of Fabrice Muamba. Understandably, rightly, Twitter and the British press reacted with anger and hurt at his comments. He received thousands of responses explaining what an unpleasant chap he was; he was condemned in national newspapers and by anchors and commentators alike on TV. He was shunned. All of which, in my view, was well and good. We could pat ourselves on the back and congratulate one another on our collective good taste and good will. Fabrice Muamba even rose from the dead!
But then the police decided to get involved. It seemed that our social, community response to Liam Stacey's ugly thoughts was not enough. He was arrested. He was sent to prison. Suddenly this wasn't a question of someone having an opinion and pretty much everyone else telling him to bugger off - suddenly this was an issue of freedom of speech. And so, as is our duty, many of us (appalled as we were, and participants in the hounding of this boy as we were) were forced to take Mr. Stacey's side as his right to be offensive in the eyes of the law was dismissed.
Today, a boy of 17 sits in a police station being interrogated about his tweets concerning Olympic diver Tom Daley. To be clear, the messages that I saw were deeply and personally offensive. They used Daley's deceased father as ammunition to bait and mock the young sportsman for being pipped to the podium.
Because they were the written embodiment of nihilistic online bullying - with their extreme crassness and their absurd self-importance - I felt moved to tweet how disgusting I found them. So did thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of other users of the social network. The troll - shocked, hurt even by the flood of opprobrium he received - apologised.
Good stuff, right? A happy ending. Except he has now been arrested and so, as with Liam Stacey, those of us with any concern for freedom of expression and for the right to offend people in debate and discussion are now forced to feel sympathy and outrage on this young man's behalf.
And that's the problem with the state involving itself in these matters. It is one thing for us to use social pressure to force some conformity to manners on the platforms and networks which we use. That is standard, admirable, human behaviour. Communities cannot survive by law alone - they need the soft application and expectation of certain norms, traditions and social rules.
But when the state decides that it must turn those laws into actionable, prosecutable law it prevents us from self-organising and self-regulating behaviour. It renders us dependent upon its intervention. And this serves to split the community. Some of us who called out the Tom Daley trolling are appalled by the arrest, others are comforted - the state's intrusion has taken a unifying meme and rendered it a moment of vicious division and debate.
I want to be free to tell people I find them offensive. I want to be free to be told so myself. We do not need the state to regulate our conversations, our arguments and every breathing second of the communities we have chosen to immerse ourselves in. And every time the state chooses to act on a Twitter-storm it makes me less confident that I can articulate my distaste without risking another man's liberty. More arrests like these and the very concept of the social network - with its inbuilt, self-made communities, rules and self-regulation - will become completely untenable.