AM I offended by some random guy in Coatbridge teaching his dog to do Nazi salutes? Not really. It’s idiotic, but I wouldn’t give it much more status than that.

Regardless, Mark Meechan was slapped with a £800 fine this week after training his dog to do just that in response to the phrases “gas the jews” and “Sieg Heil” and posting a video of it on YouTube. He used the former phrase no less than 23 times in just a few minutes.

Meechan’s defence was that it was all just a bit of a joke and he’d trained his girlfriend’s dog to do something outrageously offensive to wind her up, but the courts didn’t find it so funny.

READ MORE: Nazi dog' prankster Mark Meechan reveals he tried to get the sheriff to jail him

The case thrust Scotland into the centre of a freedom of speech debate. Comedians Ricky Gervais and David Baddiel came to Meechan’s defence, as well as former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson.

I’m also leaning more favourably towards the free speech side in this case, although I’ve changed my mind on this more times than Meechan’s dog gave its Nazi salute.

It’s a tricky one, because context is everything. In 2018 we have the rise of the far right on the shores of both Europe and America, and we have a social network ecosystem online that cannot get to grips any of it.

The law simply hasn’t caught up with technology, and it appears to have little clue how to. Just look at the spectacle of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in front of the US senate earlier this month answering questions about how it uses data and advertising. It was like a 12-year-old trying to show his grandad how to set up an email address at times.

And this is where the crux of the problem lies for me. Decades ago, the main medium for controversial comedy would have been television, radio, cinema and newspapers, where there’s an editorial and creative process behind decisions to publish any kind of offensive content. Senior editorial staff are trained on the legal side: they understand the need to balance freedom of speech with responsibility. They take their audiences into account. They consider who might be watching and when. Sometimes they get things right, sometimes they get things wrong – and when it’s the latter, you can be sure there’ll be a thorough editorial post-mortem examining why.

But none of this applies to YouTube. Social media is getting a bad rap in general these days – if it’s not scandals about our data being grabbed for god knows what purpose on Facebook it’s yet another story about abuse on Twitter, or ‘sexting’ between teens on Snapchat going horribly wrong – but there’s a very particular problem on YouTube that needs to be taken into account with the Meechan case.

READ MORE: Nazi dog' prankster Mark Meechan reveals he tried to get the sheriff to jail him

YouTube has become a favourite haunt of the far right globally. It’s worryingly difficult to do a YouTube search for anything political and not find oneself with bonkers conspiracy theory videos showing up as suggested viewing.

The comments sections below the videos contain some of the most toxic, poisonous material you’re ever likely to see, and the abuse directed at women, people of colour and minorities is particularly vicious.

If networks like Facebook and Twitter have elbowed their way into becoming the ultimate digital newspaper, YouTube acts like a news agency. It’s common to see average-joe members of the public sharing videos containing far-right propaganda on their profiles. The far right has capitalised wonderfully on the free speech issue: it has commandeered much of the digital space by bullying others, by forcibly dampening the speech of opponents, while simultaneously claiming that governments are preventing them from speaking.

This is why context matters. Meechan used a platform known for its appeal to extremists to post a joke that caused great offence to the Jewish community. Even if I’m prepared to accept it was all just a stupid stunt that in no way reflects Meechan’s views, I can’t shake off the context. But additionally, we wouldn’t have Tommy Robinson showing up in Scotland to squeeze publicity for the far-right out of this case if the law hadn’t breezed in and made such a fuss. There are plenty of far-right problems to tackle, a joke in bad taste was probably not the most helpful target in the long run.

So no, I’m not offended by Meechan, and I have valid concerns about the state clamping down on controversial comedy – if satire starts getting hauled into the courts next, for example, I’m leaving the country – but I’m not left without worries.

READ MORE: Nazi dog' prankster Mark Meechan reveals he tried to get the sheriff to jail him

Other parts of the world which greatly value personal freedoms, like the USA, may look on in bemusement at this stooshie. But last year Americans elected Donald Trump as president after a campaign which utilised social media in the darkest way we’ve ever seen in this early stage of the new world.

The truth is that we need to find a new balance between freedom and responsibility, fit for the digital age. The Meechan case is simply symptomatic of the problem society is facing, and if anything has only further muddied the waters.