On Monday, a YouTube personality who taught his girlfriend’s dog to perform Nazi salutes as a joke was fined £800 by a U.K. court for being “grossly offensive.”
Mark Meechan, who blogs under the name Count Dankula, was found guilty under the Communications Act over the video, which he said he did as a joke to his girlfriend. He was found guilty of committing a “hate crime” and had faced as much as six months in jail under the U.K. law.
Meechan was arrested in April 2016 over the video, which showed him teaching his girlfriend’s dog to give a Nazi “Sieg Heil salute,” and showed the pug named Buddha responding excitedly to the phrase “gas the Jews.”
He says the video was intended to be seen by just seven of his friends who follow his YouTube channel, Count Dankula, the Daily Mail reported. He taught the dog to act like a Nazi as “a joke intended to upset his girlfriend,” Newsweek wrote. “But he says the video was shared, by someone on the social media platform, Reddit, which led to the surge in its popularity,” said The Daily Mail. The video was viewed some 3 million times.
Before he was found guilty, Sheriff Derek O’Carroll told the court, “The accused knew that the material was offensive and knew why it was offensive. He would have known it was grossly offensive to many Jewish people.” He found Meechan guilty of sending by “means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.”
“Dozens of supporters gathered outside court for the sentencing, including the English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, while fundraising campaigns have started to cover the fine,” The Independent reported.
Speaking outside court, Meechan described the video as a joke centred around the “juxtaposition of having an adorable animal react to something vulgar”.
Meechan said he would appeal against his conviction over concerns it sets a legal precedent, which the judge denied.
“A really dangerous precedent has been set for people to say things, their context to be completely ignored and then they can be convicted for it,” he said outside the court.
“You don’t get to decide the context of what you said, other people don’t get to, the court gets to – that’s dangerous.”
Meechan’s defence lawyer, Ross Brown, described him as a “tolerant and liberal man” and argued the case could have an impact on comedians.
“His difficulty, it seems, was that he was someone who enjoyed shock humour, both giving and receiving it, and went about his life under the impression that he lived in a jurisdiction which permitted its citizens the right to freely express themselves,” he added.
Meechan’s sentencing follows another case in which a teenager in Britain had been found guilty of charges that she disseminated a “grossly offensive message by means of a public electronic communications network” — by posting rap lyrics on a social media site.
Chelsea Russell, 19, of Liverpool, posted some lyrics on Instagram from Snap Dogg’s “I’m Trippin'” to pay tribute to a 13-year-old boy who died after he was hit by a car last summer, the BBC reported. The lyrics said “kill a snitch n****, rob a rich n****.”
Russell was found guilty of a hate crime and must now wear an electronic bracelet to allow authorities to monitor her movements. She was also given a curfew from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. She was also given eight weeks of community service and ordered to pay costs of £500 and an £85 “victim surcharge.”