Internet trolls will escape prosecution if they apologise, say new guidelines released today
'High threshold' placed on Twitter and Facebook comments before prosecution
Thursday 20 June 2013
New guidelines for social media will ensure that Twitter and Facebook users who post offensive messages online must pass a “high threshold” before facing prosecution, and could avoid prosecution altogether by apologising.
Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions has published guidelines for prosecutors who are taking on cases involving communications sent via social media.
The guidelines are being implemented to address the “potential chilling effect” that the high number of prosecutions in cases where a communication might be considered grossly offensive, said Mr Starmer.
Social media ‘trolls’ have become an online phenomenon, and usually post offensive, upsetting and inflammatory comments on networks such as Twitter and Facebook, where their posts may be seen publicly.
Now, under the new guidelines, prosecutions could be rendered unnecessary if the person who has posted the offensive post “has expressed genuine remorse” or has taken “swift and effective action” to “remove the communication in question or otherwise block access to it”. A prosecution could also be avoided if the communication “was not intended for a wide audience, nor was the obvious consequence of sending the communication”.
The guidelines, published on Thursday, seek to make the distinction between communications that should be prosecuted, such as those that amount to a credible threat of violence, a targeted campaign of harassment against an individual or which breach court orders, and those communications which may be considered grossly offensive, to which the high threshold must apply.
Additionally, prosecutors must recognise the right to “freedom of expression” and only proceed with a prosecution when a communication is “more than offensive, shocking or disturbing, even if distasteful or painful to those subjected to it”.
The changes to securing prosecutions come after the May 2010 conviction of Paul Chambers for sending a “menacing” tweet when he joked on Twitter about blowing up Robin Hood Airport in South Yorkshire.
His conviction drew widespread condemnation and was eventually quashed on appeal in the High Court in July.
Mr Starmer said: “Millions of communications are sent via social media every day, and prosecutors must be equipped to deal appropriately and consistently with cases arising from the growing use of these new ways of communicating.
“When I published the interim guidelines on prosecuting cases involving social media, I aimed to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to uphold the criminal law.
“Encouragingly, the public consultation showed there is wide support for the overall approach set out in the guidelines, which state there should be a high threshold for prosecution in cases involving communications which may be considered grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false.”
Arsenal 1 Everton 1: Substitute equalises with six minutes to go
food + drinkMichelin-starred Tom Sellers on being this year's hottest property
booksGeese, gorillas, grandads... and growing up
tvParents (and kids) rejoice! A new wave of fantastic family entertainment is here
food + drinkHow one grocery e-tailer is gearing up for the Yuletide rush
food + drink
Nelson Mandela: 11 inspirational quotes to live your life by
Queen to miss Nelson Mandela funeral over security and long-haul flight concerns
'Never a good time to increase MPs' pay': Jack Straw defends politicians' 11% pay rise in face of public outrage
10 stone five-year-old taken into care
Japan cracks down on leaks after scandal of Fukushima nuclear power plant
- 1 Hundreds arrested as Canadian police smash worldwide paedophile ring
- 2 Sherlock series 3: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman provide teasers for the biggest comeback in British television
- 3 The man who made Femen: New film outs Victor Svyatski as the mastermind behind the protest group and its breast-baring stunts
- 4 Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis
- 5 Japan cracks down on leaks after scandal of Fukushima nuclear power plant
- < Previous
- Next >
£80000 - £100000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior C++ De...
£25000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C++ Server Dev...
£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: Leading Electronic Trading Software Ven...
£23999 - £32001 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: An independent ac...