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My son is 16 and runs a meme page on Instagram. A couple of hours ago, he posted a photograph of Lord Mountbatten with the caption "hey British people, the IRA made Lord Mountbatten go boom, how do you feel about that?", and someone commented "the British secret service is now investigating you, troll, and you will rue the day you made this post"

We both live in the US, and neither of us has any ties to the UK. Could my son actually get in legal trouble with the British Secret Service for his (admittedly poor taste, but still, not a threat) joke about a terror attack that happened half a century ago?

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Free speech protections in the U.K. are much weaker than those in the U.S. in many key respects.

The kind of comment mentioned might give rise to legal action in the U.K., either civil or criminal (although it wouldn't be an open and shut case even in the U.K.), but this would clearly not be a valid basis for criminal proceedings or a civil lawsuit in the U.S. due to strong U.S. protections for free speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. would not extradite someone in the U.S. to the U.K. for an offense of this kind, and U.S. courts would not enforce a civil judgment entered in the U.K. against U.S. assets if the judgment was based upon this kind of conduct. Knowing this fact, U.K. officials and lawyers wouldn't even try to do so.

The U.K. might enforce its laws criminally against people present in the U.K., and would enforce a judgment in a civil lawsuit against a U.S. person entered in a U.K. court (that has proper personal jurisdiction over that U.S. person according to U.K. jurisdiction rules) against that U.S. person's U.K. assets.

As a practical matter, it is not the practice of U.K. officials to commence criminal cases in which it can issue arrest warrants that would provide a basis to arrest a U.S. person if that person arrives in the U.K., for this kind of conduct, even though it could.

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  • Thanks! I'm more worried that he would get in trouble for terrorism (since he made a joke about a terrorist attack, although it was clearly not a threat), but I guess I don't have to worry about that
    – DrHeVe
    Dec 2, 2023 at 1:29
  • Your son might consider not acting like a complete arse. And he doesn’t quite improve people’s opinion of his countrymen. Which is low enough as it is.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 2, 2023 at 17:33

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