Anyone who’s ever flown to America from a foreign country knows that U.S. customs people don’t have much of a sense of humor about their jobs. (That bomb joke you’re considering? Trust us, it sounds funnier in your head.) But recently, two British tourists discovered that even jokes you post on your Twitter account can and will be used against you when trying to enter the U.S.
According to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, Leigh Van Bryan, a 26-year-old Irish national living in England, and his British companion, 24-year-old Emily Bunting, came to Los Angeles for a vacation but were detained because of a couple of tweets he’d made prior to his trip. “Free this week for a quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?” read a post to a friend on @LeighBryan’s Twitter account on January 16. On January 3, he tweeted, “3 weeks today, we’re totally in LA pissing people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up!”
When they were questioned at immigration, Van Bryan and Bunting explained that “destroy” was British slang for “party” and that the Marilyn Monroe reference was a quote from the American TV show “Family Guy.” But the Department of Homeland Security wasn’t convinced. After being questioned and searched for shovels, the two travelers were put in holding cells overnight and then sent back home on a plane the next morning.
A few months ago, we learned to be careful what you say on Facebook because your friends just might come by to rob your house while you’re on vacation. The idea that the government is watching our tweets is even worse. Too late, Van Bryan has learned his lesson: his tweets are now viewable only by approved followers.
What’s your take — did Van Bryan and Bunting deserve to be sent home for their ill-advised tweets, or did the U.S. government overreact?
— written by Sarah Schlichter