Internet trolls will escape prosecution if they apologise, say new guidelines released today
'High threshold' placed on Twitter and Facebook comments before prosecution
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.”
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...
£15000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to ...
£12 - £14 per hour: Recruitment Genius: We are looking for someone to join a s...
£15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...