February 22, 2024

Photo: NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP (Getty Images)

In the summer of 2022, 18-year-old Aditya Verma was boarding a flight to Spain at London’s Gatwick Airport when he sent a message to his friend on Snapchat: “On my way to blow up the plane (I’m a member of the Taliban).” As you might expect, the message was a joke. Unfortunately, the kid happened to be using the airport’s WiFi network when he sent it.

Several hours later, when Verma deplaned at his destination, he was arrested and drummed into a prison cell by local police. He would stay there for two days before finally being released on bail, BBC reports.

As it turns out, Verma’s Snapchat message had been intercepted by British security services, who reported his “blow up” comment to Spanish authorities. Spain subsequently scrambled two F-18 fighter jets, which escorted the plane Verma was on until it reached its destination.

After his arrest, Verma’s experience went from bad to worse. After his release from prison, he was questioned by numerous British intelligence services—including MI5 and MI6—who investigated whether he had ties to terror organizations. While authorities ultimately decided that Verma was not actually a threat to national security, he has still been charged by the Spanish government with causing a public disorder. He may now have to pay a hefty fine, part of which would cover the cost of Spain’s fighter jet deployment. The price tag for that fine could be as high as $120,000.

Verma’s lawyer has defended him by noting the teen “didn’t put his message on Facebook or advertise it” and that the message he sent was the “equivalent of making a joke inside a car with friends.”

Generally speaking, a good rule of thumb is to never joke about blowing up planes. But if you must, don’t do it on an electronic device. If you insist, don’t do it on an electronic device at the airport. And if you really, really can’t help yourself, never ever make the joke on an electronic device on the airport’s public wifi network.