Police in the British county of Gwent warned internet commenters that they could be prosecuted for mocking a wanted drug dealer’s receding hairline, seen in a viral mugshot widely disseminated on social media this month.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Gwent Police appealed to the public for help tracking down Jermaine Taylor, 21, wanted for breaching his license conditions.
But Taylor’s mugshot, which showed off his substantial forehead and the sparse tendrils of hair adorning his scalp, didn’t have its intended effects on social media users.
Commenters ruthlessly mocked the convicted drug pusher, with some tweeting, “His forehead is bigger than his future,” and that his hairline had been “pushed back more times than Brexit,” according to the Telegraph.
“He was last seen in town; Police are combing the area,” and “He’s vanished into thin hair,” quipped other users.
And still others wrote, “Push his release date back further than his hairline, that should teach him,” and “Who’s missing him or his hair piece?”
Gwent Police were concerned, responding to the devastating rhetorical burns by issuing a statement. In it, officials warned that online bullying was illegal.
“Please remember that harassing, threatening and abusing people on social media can be against the law,” police said in the statement.
“Our advice is to be as careful on social media as you would in any other form of communication. If you say something about someone which is grossly offensive or is of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, then you could be investigated by the police.”
A spokesperson told Newsweek that it’s police’s duty to warn people to watch what they say when the “line is crossed from being funny to abusive.”
Gwent Police and coddling concerns
A societal battle over the right to give offense versus the right to not be offended has flared in recent years.
Increased attention paid to concepts such as political correctness, trigger warnings, microaggressions has led some critics to argue that a supposed “snowflake-ization” of the culture has had detrimental effects.
Perhaps that’s what was top of mind for the commenter who, according to The Sun, wrote on Facebook in response to Gwent Police’s warning: “Can’t work out what’s thinner. This guy’s hair or Gwent police’s skin?”