Trivial Insults

 Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter



 Update: Bad Policing...

Are police realising that its a crap job arresting little people for trivial insults?


Link Here 1st August 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Metropiltan Police badge Police admitted last night that they are being dragged into too many Twitter disputes as a row raged over the decision to arrest a youth who abused Olympic diving star Tom Daley.

The police over reacted and swooped on the home of Reece Messer, 17, at 2.45am yesterday as if he was some sort of highly dangerous master criminal.

Last night, as Dorset police handed the troubled teenager a formal harassment warning, police leaders claimed forces are being dragged into too many petty social media rows.

Officers were asked to look at content 14,000 times on Facebook alone last year and Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said forces do not have the resources to monitor the internet. He said:

There is legislation which concerns causing harassment, alarm or distress. But can we police the internet when someone upsets someone else?

I don't think we have the resources to do that. We can't have a free-for-all online but we cannot involve the police every time something unpleasant is said.

 

 Updated: The 1936 Berlin Olympics?...

A 17 year old arrested for a nasty tweet to athlete Tom Daley


Link Here 1st August 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Twitter logo A 17-year-old has been arrested after insulting tweets were sent to Olympic diver Tom Daley accusing him of letting his late father down.

Dorset Police have confirmed the teenager was arrested on suspicion of 'malicious' communications at a guest house in Weymouth following a series of abusive messages.

Daley and his partner Pete Waterfield missed out on a medal \ when they finished fourth in the men's synchronised 10m platform diving event at the Olympics.

Shortly afterwards, Daley retweeted a message from user Rileyy69 which said: You let your dad down i hope you know that.

Daley responded by tweeting: After giving it my all...you get idiot's sending me this...

Rileyy69 apologised: @TomDaley1994 I'm sorry mate i just wanted you to win cause its the olympics I'm just annoyed we didn't win I'm sorry tom accept my apology.

The apologetic messages were interspersed with a stream of expletives and further abuse to other users.

Update: Nastier comments than originally reported

1st August 2012. See article from thedigitalreport.net . Thanks to David

The arrest of the guy tweeting insults to Tom Daley seems to be more about specific, if hardly credible, threats of violence that he made to Daley and at least one other individual.

So it's not just the usual thought police thing this time, though with the cops and CPS having cried wolf enough times with previous stupid Twitter cases...

Offsite Comment: The best response to cruel, offensive or disgusting tweets, is simply to ignore them

1st August 2012. See  article from  guardian.co.uk by John Kampfner

 

  Trivial Tweets: Pandering to the Easily Offended...

Can't the ombudsman just say no for once


Link Here 3rd August 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

king arthur ombudsman A complaint has been made to a PC watchdog about a councillor accused of suggesting on Twitter that a woman turn to prostitution to earn money.

According to the Western Mail, Carmarthenshire councillor John Jenkins responded to a female Twitter user who said she needed to earn money quickly by writing:

Prostitution? On a serious note, good money in being in an escort.

Jenkins, who represents Elli in Llanelli as an independent, said:

Someone has obviously gone to a lot of effort to trawl through an archive of my private communications to find something that they can take out of context to make me look bad. Continue reading the main story Start Quote

In no way can private banter between friends, none of which were offended by the obvious tongue-in-cheek banter, be considered offensive.

He said he had been the subject of a vexatious, politically-motivated complaint and looked forward to explaining it to the ombudsman if the watchdog thinks there is a case to answer.

A spokeswoman for the Public Services Ombudsman confirmed a complaint had been made. She said it would be considered before a decision is taken whether to launch a formal investigation.

 

 Update: Police Don't Need New Laws for Twitter...

But it's us that need new laws to preserve free speech


Link Here 5th August 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

ACPO logo Twitter should take action as quickly as possible to deal with supposed abuse on its website, according to a senior police officer.

Stuart Hyde, chief constable of Cumbria police who speaks on e-crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said it was right for police to intervene in cases of bullying on twitter.

Asked if new laws were needed, Hyde told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

No, I think we have got quite a lot of legislation, dating back to the Malicious Communications Acts of 1998 and 2003. There is a lot there that helps us and gives us the power to do stuff.

This is a new technology, a new way of communicating, it has grown exponentially. There hasn't been separate legislation, so we are using legislation that wasn't particularly created for this, but it works reasonably well most of the time.

We are learning from it, there are things that have sometimes gone wrong and I think sometimes it is important that we make sure we provide the service people need.

If people come to us and say 'I am really upset, I've been offended, my life has been made a misery and I want somebody to do something about it', then yes the police should, whenever possible, try to help.

I don't want police officers dragged off the streets to deal with frivolous complaints. Where these complaints are pretty serious, then it is quite right that we should intervene, and we do that.

It is important to look at the whole context. It is not just about one tweet, it is a whole range of tweets.

Look at what the individual has done -- is this a concerted attempt to have a go at one individual in a way that passes the threshold for offences against the law? If it is, then clearly we should intervene and do something to stop it.

But Hyde said that police have so far not received large numbers of complaints about abusive Twitter messages.

 

 Update: Harassing Tweeters...

Britain leads the way in persecuting its people over internet insults


Link Here 21st August 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

oxford internet institute logo Police and prosecutors in the UK are accused of being incredibly heavy-handed when dealing with insulting internet messages.

It follows several cases where young people have been arrested, fined or jailed after posting insulting comments on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Bernie Hogan from the Oxford Internet Institute monitors what happens in other countries. He said that although the UK was leading the way in cracking down on this type of online abuse, by comparison we are incredibly heavy-handed .

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said in a statement: People have a right to publish their views but when these views become indecent, threatening or offensive then the individuals they affect also have the right to report them. The police will assist with any prosecution.

Index, which campaigns for freedom of expression, say the cases are silly and the police only pursues them because they are easy prosecutions .

 

 Update: Hopefully the CPS to Become Less Prone to Easy Offence...

CPS set to reconsider the definitions of insults before they end up prosecuting everyone in the country


Link Here 21st September 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Crown Prosecution Service Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecution has made a statement after deciding to pursue a case involving insulting tweets. Starmer said:

On 30 July 2012 Daniel Thomas, a semi-professional footballer, posted a homophobic message on the social networking site, Twitter. This related to the Olympic divers Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield. This became available to his followers. Someone else distributed it more widely and it made its way into some media outlets. Mr Thomas was arrested and interviewed. The matter was then referred to CPS Wales to consider whether Mr Thomas should be charged with a criminal offence.

The Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to send a communication using a public electronic communications network if that communication is grossly offensive. It is now established that posting comments via Twitter constitutes sending a message by means of a public electronic communications network. It is also clear that the offence is committed once the message is sent, irrespective of whether it is received by any intended recipient or anyone else. The question in this case is therefore whether the message posted by Mr Thomas is so grossly offensive as to be criminal and, if so, whether a prosecution is required in the public interest.

There is no doubt that the message posted by Mr Thomas was offensive and would be regarded as such by reasonable members of society. But the question for the CPS is not whether it was offensive, but whether it was so grossly offensive that criminal charges should be brought. The distinction is an important one and not easily made. Context and circumstances are highly relevant and as the European Court of Human Rights observed in the case of Handyside v UK (1976), the right to freedom of expression includes the right to say things or express opinions ...that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population.

The context and circumstances in this case include the following facts and matters:

  • (a) However misguided, Mr Thomas intended the message to be humorous.

  • (b) However naive, Mr Thomas did not intend the message to go beyond his followers, who were mainly friends and family.

  • (c) Mr Thomas took reasonably swift action to remove the message.

  • (d) Mr Thomas has expressed remorse and was, for a period, suspended by his football club.

  • (e) Neither Mr Daley nor Mr Waterfield were the intended recipients of the message and neither knew of its existence until it was brought to their attention following reports in the media.

This was, in essence, a one-off offensive Twitter message, intended for family and friends, which made its way into the public domain. It was not intended to reach Mr Daley or Mr Waterfield, it was not part of a campaign, it was not intended to incite others and Mr Thomas removed it reasonably swiftly and has expressed remorse. Against that background, the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Wales, Jim Brisbane, has concluded that on a full analysis of the context and circumstances in which this single message was sent, it was not so grossly offensive that criminal charges need to be brought.

Before reaching a final decision in this case, Mr Daley and Mr Waterfield were consulted by the CPS and both indicated that they did not think this case needed a prosecution.

This case is one of a growing number involving the use of social media that the CPS has had to consider. There are likely to be many more. The recent increase in the use of social media has been profound. It is estimated that on Twitter alone there are 340 million messages sent daily. And the context in which this interactive social media dialogue takes place is quite different to the context in which other communications take place. Access to social media is ubiquitous and instantaneous. Banter, jokes and offensive comment are commonplace and often spontaneous. Communications intended for a few may reach millions.

Against that background, the CPS has the task of balancing the fundamental right of free speech and the need to prosecute serious wrongdoing on a case by case basis. That often involves very difficult judgment calls and, in the largely unchartered territory of social media, the CPS is proceeding on a case by case basis. In some cases it is clear that a criminal prosecution is the appropriate response to conduct which is complained about, for example where there is a sustained campaign of harassment of an individual, where court orders are flouted or where grossly offensive or threatening remarks are made and maintained. But in many other cases a criminal prosecution will not be the appropriate response. If the fundamental right to free speech is to be respected, the threshold for criminal prosecution has to be a high one and a prosecution has to be required in the public interest.

To ensure that CPS decision-making in these difficult cases is clear and consistent, I intend to issue guidelines on social media cases for prosecutors. These will assist them in deciding whether criminal charges should be brought in the cases that arise for their consideration. In the first instance, the CPS will draft interim guidelines. There will then be a wide public consultation before final guidelines are published. As part of that process, I intend to hold a series of roundtable meetings with campaigners, media lawyers, academics, social media experts and law enforcement bodies to ensure that the guidelines are as fully informed as possible.

But this is not just a matter for prosecutors. Social media is a new and emerging phenomenon raising difficult issues of principle, which have to be confronted not only by prosecutors but also by others including the police, the courts and service providers. The fact that offensive remarks may not warrant a full criminal prosecution does not necessarily mean that no action should be taken. In my view, the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media.

 

 Update: Easily Offended Manchester Police...

Getting heavy over another football insult on Twitter


Link Here 29th September 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

police manchester logo A football fan who sent a Twitter insult about Premier League referee and cancer survivor Mark Halsey following last weekend's Liverpool v Manchester United game has been cautioned by police.

Liverpool supporter John Wareing tweeted: I hope Mark Halsey gets cancer again and dies , after the official sent off Reds midfielder Jonjo Shevley and handed United a late penalty that gave Sir Alex Ferguson's side a 2-1 win.

Commenting on the incident, easily offended DS Tony Lunt of Greater Manchester Police spouted:

Clearly the victim and his family were very distressed by the extremely offensive comments posted on Twitter. We take all reports of abuse on social networking sites very seriously as these remarks can and do have a devastating impact on people's lives.

As a result of our investigation, we have cautioned a man who has admitted responsibility for some of the messages. This individual was very apologetic and realises that in a moment of stupidity he posted deeply derogatory remarks about the victim and completely regrets his actions.

Our inquiries are ongoing to identify anyone else who posted these offensive messages.

 

 Update: Grossly Excessive Policing...

More police actions against 'grossly offensive' internet messages


Link Here 8th October 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Facebook logoA man from Lancashire has been charged with making an offensive post on Facebook about missing five-year-old April Jones.

Matthew Wood is accused of sending a public electronic communication which is grossly offensive.

He is in custody and will appear before Chorley Magistrates' Court on Monday. Wood, who was arrested on Saturday, has been charged under section 127 of the Communications Act.

 

 Update: Britain's Joke Police Worry about Workload in Policing Jokes and Insults...

And don't give a shit about the devastation that they are causing to people's lives


Link Here 10th October 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

ACPO logoThe director of public prosecutions is exploring whether Facebook and Twitter should take more responsibility for censoring their networks for supposed abuse and harassment in an attempt to reduce the number of cases of people being persecuted for jokes or insults.

Keir Starmer is this week consulting with lawyers, journalists and police in a series of seminars on the subject. He seems keen to ask if social media companies can censor their sites because police are concerned about the volume of offensive posts and tweets they may be called to investigate.

Those attending the panels said Starmer frequently returned to the subject, and he is preparing to draw up guidelines against an almost daily backdrop of arrests, prosecutions and controversy. But there is no immediate consensus on what greater self-regulation for social media would look like.

The growing number of arrests often invoke the repressive section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act, which makes it an offence to send or post grossly offensive material online.

Meanwhile, police are worried about the time spent examining cases and that it will only be practicable to investigate a handful of cases where emotions are running high. Andy Trotter, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on media issues, said: Many offensive comments are made every day on social media and guidance will assist the police to focus on the most serious matters.

Police would like Facebook and Twitter to act faster in deleting offensive comments to avoid arrests being necessary and to see if it is possible to explore ways of blocking particular individuals from using their networks.

 

 Comments: PC Sheep at UK Court...

Man shamefully jailed for 12 weeks for bad taste jokes


Link Here 10th October 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

HM Courts ServiceA teenager who posted bad taste jokes about April Jones on his Facebook page has been jailed for 12 weeks.

Matthew Woods made comments about April and Madeleine McCann. Woods was arrested for his own safety after about 50 people descended on his home.

He pleaded guilty at Chorley magistrates court to sending by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is 'grossly offensive'.

The chairman of the bench, Bill Hudson, said Woods's comments were so abhorrent he deserved the longest sentence the court could hand down. Hudson added: The reason for the sentence is the seriousness of the offence, the public outrage that has been caused and we felt there was no other sentence this court could have passed which conveys to you the abhorrence that many in society feel this crime should receive.

The court was told Woods's Facebook page was available to a large number of people but there's no mention of how many people actually saw it.

Martina Jay, persecuting, said: He saw a joke on Sickipedia [an online database devoted to sick jokes] and changed it slightly.

Among Woods's comments were: Who in their right mind would abduct a ginger kid? In another he said: I woke up this morning in the back of a transit van with two beautiful little girls, I found April in a hopeless place. He also wrote: Could have just started the greatest Facebook argument EVER. April fools, who wants Maddie? I love April Jones. Also posted were comments of a more sexually explicit nature.

The CPS has confirmed that it reviewed the case and was content with the prosecution going ahead.

Offsite Comment: No one should be put in prison for making a joke that other people don’t like.

9th October 2012. See  article from  blog.indexoncensorship.org by Padraig Reidy

Offsite Comment: Twelve weeks in prison for sick jokes on Facebook? Really?

10th October 2012. See  article from  ukhumanrightsblog.com

Offsite Comment: Don't make me laugh

10th October 2012. See  article from  openrightsgroup.org

Offsite Editorial: In the end the solution will have to be rewriting or even repealing this law.

10th October 2012. See  article from  guardian.co.uk

Update: An insulting reduction of sentence on appeal

15th November 2012. See  article from  lancashiretelegraph.co.uk

A man jailed for posting insults on his Facebook page about missing schoolgirl April Jones has had his twelve weeks sentence cut to eight weeks.

Matthew Woods successfully appealed against his sentence at Preston Crown Court having claimed the twelve week term was excessive and that magistrates should have given him credit for his guilty plea.

Update: Another victim gets a suspended prison sentence

19th November 2012. See  article from  guardian.co.uk

A sales adviser who made a series of bad taste comments about five-year-old April Jones on Facebook has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Magistrates in Worcester chose not to jail Sam Busby despite being told that another Facebook user was sentenced to three months in prison for an almost identical offence last month.

Busby admitted he was responsible for the comments and told officers he thought they could only be seen by his friends on Facebook.

Passing a six-week jail term suspended for 18 months, magistrates said they had taken into account Busby's early guilty plea and remorse.

The chairman of the bench, Gill Porter, told the teenager:

You will realise by the time we have taken to discuss this matter how seriously we view it. You have caused an immense amount of distress, not only to the recipient of this but potentially to April Jones's family and friends.

It happened at a very sensitive time for everybody concerned. You were warned by your friends when they first saw your so-called joke, but you took no notice and you continued to make further even more offensive comments.

Busby was also ordered to pay an 80 victim surcharge and keep to a 7pm-7am curfew for eight weeks.

Update: Insulting Sentence

8th October 2013.  See  article from  walesonline.co.uk

Scottish Courts logoA man who sent insulting messages on Facebook mocking the search for murdered five-year-old April Jones claimed his freedom of expression was breached, a court heard.

Liam Young posted supposedly shocking and offensive remarks online two days after April Jones went missing last year.

He avoided a jail sentence but angered a sheriff after claiming social network messaging should be unrestricted in a democratic society . Young was given 120 hours unpaid work after admitting disorderly conduct by sending indecent and offensive comments.

Sheriff Murphy highlighted Young's remarks to social workers, saying: It concerns me that someone believes they can say what they like on Facebook because they live in a democratic society.

 

 Offsite Article: A Tasteless Facebook Update...


Link Here 11th October 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
More evidence of Britain's terrifying new censorship. Have we got such a debased and demoralised view of freedom that we're now willing to lock up people for posting angry comments on social media

See article from independent.co.uk

 

 Update: Another victim of the Azhar Ahmed rant...

A woman is convicted of 'grossly offensive' messages in response to the anti-soldier rant


Link Here 13th October 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

HM Courts ServiceA Judge has sentenced a woman for supposedly vile messages in response to Azhar Ahmed's anti-soldier rant on Facebook.

Judge Mallon told Wilby that she had considered the fact that Ahmed had set this whole train running and he had received a community-based punishment. She said that her case should act as a caution to others airing their views online.

Judge Mallon sentenced Wilby to a 12 month community order, including 15 days of activity and 100 hours of unpaid work she will also have to pay 85 court costs.

Wilby, who had no previous convictions, also lost her job as a result of the proceedings against her.

Simon Lindley, mitigating,  said:

She didn't set up the site, it was something she saw and she was upset.

She's got drawn into it. She's seen all these other people making comments and has unfortunately done the same.

She didn't step back and think of what she was doing -- she's deeply remorseful.

Of course the newspaper would not print or even give an indication of what was actually said but in the absence of facts then  one must assume that it was just a few mindless expletives and a couple of religious terms.

 

 Update: Insulting to Free Speech...

Police get involved in 4000 petty squabbles on Facebook


Link Here 28th October 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

police federation logoPolice have gotten involved in 4,000 petty squabbles on Facebook and Twitter. Statistics from 22 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales show arrests for insulting messages are averaging three a day.

The police say they are wasting valuable time and resources tackling internet users directing abuse at each other. In most cases, police simply tell victims to delete their tormentors from their networks, but the Crown Prosecution Service says a few dozen   incidents have led to court, with the figure growing rapidly in recent months.

An policeman from North Wales said:

You will always have one or two serious incidents of harassment and bullying on Facebook and the like but for the most part it's petty stuff. It takes up a lot of time and the normal result is advice from us to all parties to grow up.

Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said:

We have concerns that we don't have the resources to police everything that's said on the internet. We can't have people getting upset in a one-off situation and involving the police. I do think this could be the thin end of the wedge. If we show too much willingness and get involved in every squabble, we're setting ourselves up to keep doing this because it will be expected.

Statistics from 22 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales show there were at least 4,098 arrests under the relevant laws between the start of 2009 and the middle of 2012, averaging three a day. More than 2,000 people were either charged or given an out-of-court fine or caution.

 

 Offsite Article: Britain's crackdown on Web comments sparks free-speech debate...


Link Here 9th November 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Los Angeles Times reports on the loss of free speech in Britain

See article from latimes.com

 

 Update: In Remembrance of British Free Speech...

Kent police accused of malicious use of the Malicious Communications Act


Link Here 12th November 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

After a century looking out for the nation's sensibilities and a new president taking charge, the BBFC has much to scrutinise, not least its own history

 

 

 

pages=awwb,awwb12d
location=UK
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 Offsite Article: Meeting the Director of Malicious Persecutions...


Link Here 13th November 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
A panel discussion in London yesterday did not offer much hope that prosecutors and politicians will defend free speech online.

See article from indexoncensorship.org

 

 Offsite Article: For God's sake...


Link Here 15th November 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
The Director of Public Persecutions *still* doesn't understand how the internet works. Meanwhile, he's planning to censor it

See article from blogs.telegraph.co.uk

 

 Update: Insults Beyond Offensive...

DPP updates guidelines to prevent internet users from being prosecuted for trivial insults


Link Here 19th December 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Keir StarmerNew guidelines could see fewer people being charged in England and Wales for offensive messages on social networks.

The Director of Public Persecutions said people should only face a trial if their comments on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere go beyond being offensive. He claimed the guidance combats threats and internet trolls without having a chilling effect on free speech.

The guidance comes after a string of cases of prosecutions for jokes, and trivial insults, including the prosecution of a man who tweeted a joke threatening to blow up an airport.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had now dealt with more than 50 cases relating to potentially criminal comments posted online.

He said the interim guidelines, which come into force immediately, clarified which kinds of cases should be prosecuted and which would only go ahead after a rigorous assessment whether it was in the public interest to prosecute.

The guidance says that if someone posts a message online that clearly amounts to a credible threat of violence, specifically targets an individual or individuals, or breaches a court order designed to protect someone, then the person behind the message should face prosecution.

People who receive malicious messages and pass them on, such as by retweeting, could also fall foul of the law.

However, online posts that are merely grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false would face a much tougher test before the individual could be charged under laws designed to prevent malicious communications. Starmer said that many suspects in this last category would be unlikely to be prosecuted because it would not be in the public interest to take them to court. This could include posts made by drunk people who, on sobering up, take swift action to delete the communication. Starmer said:

These interim guidelines are intended to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to uphold the criminal law.

The interim guidelines thus protect the individual from threats or targeted harassment while protecting the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some and painful to those subjected to it.

Although the interim guidance is now in force, its final form is subject to a consultation that runs until 13 March 2013.

 

 Update: Restricting Prosecutions for Insults...

Details about new DPP guidelines on prosecuting social media communications


Link Here 20th December 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

cps interim guidelines The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has published interim guidelines setting out the approach prosecutors should take in cases involving communications sent via social media.

The guidelines are designed to give clear advice to prosecutors and ensure a consistency of approach across the CPS to these types of cases.

Starmer said:

These interim guidelines are intended to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to uphold the criminal law.

They make a clear distinction between communications which amount to credible threats of violence, a targeted campaign of harassment against an individual or which breach court orders on the one hand, and other communications sent by social media, e.g. those that are grossly offensive, on the other.

The first group will be prosecuted robustly whereas the second group will only be prosecuted if they cross a high threshold; a prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest if the communication is swiftly removed, blocked, not intended for a wide audience or not obviously beyond what could conceivably be tolerable or acceptable in a diverse society which upholds and respects freedom of expression.

The interim guidelines thus protect the individual from threats or targeted harassment while protecting the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some and painful to those subjected to it.

We want the interim guidelines to be as fully informed as possible, which is why we held a series of roundtable discussions and meetings with Twitter, Facebook, Liberty and other stakeholders, police and regulators, victim groups, academics, journalists and bloggers, lawyers and sports organisations ahead of drafting them. I would now encourage everyone with an interest in this matter to give us their views by responding to the public consultation.

Initial assessment

As part of their initial assessment, prosecutors are now required to distinguish between:

  1. Communications which may constitute credible threats of violence
     
  2. Communications which may constitute harassment or stalking
     
  3. Communications which may amount to a breach of a court order
     
  4. Communications which do not fall into any of the above categories and fall to be considered separately i.e. those which may be considered grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false.

Those offences falling within the first three categories should, in general, be prosecuted robustly under the relevant legislation, for example the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), where the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors is satisfied.

Cases which fall within the final category will be subject to a high threshold and in many cases a prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest.

The high threshold

Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 engage Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, therefore prosecutors are reminded that they must be interpreted consistently with the free speech principles in Article 10.

Prosecutors are also reminded that what is prohibited under section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 is the sending of a communication that is grossly offensive. They should only proceed with cases involving such an offence where they are satisfied that the communication in question is more than:

  • Offensive, shocking or disturbing; or
     
  • Satirical, iconoclastic or rude comment; or
     
  • The expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it.

The public interest

In line with the free speech principles in Article 10, no prosecution should be brought unless it can be shown on its own facts and merits to be both necessary and proportionate.

A prosecution is unlikely to be both necessary and proportionate where:

  • a) The suspect has swiftly taken action to remove the communication or expressed genuine remorse;
     
  • b) Swift and effective action has been taken by others, for example service providers, to remove the communication in question or otherwise block access to it;
     
  • c) The communication was not intended for a wide audience, nor was that the obvious consequence of sending the communication; particularly where the intended audience did not include the victim or target of the communication in question; or
     
  • d) The content of the communication did not obviously go beyond what could conceivably be tolerable or acceptable in an open and diverse society which upholds and respects freedom of expression.

The age and maturity of suspect should be given significant weight, particularly if they are under the age of 18. Children may not appreciate the potential harm and seriousness of their communications and as such prosecutions of children are rarely likely to be in the public interest.

 

 Update: 4908 Facebook and Twitter Postings were reported to Police in 2011...

'By using offence as the trigger for prosecution, you are putting the power of censorship into the hands of people who may chose to be offended for political gain'


Link Here 28th December 2012  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Twitter logo29 police forces have revealed statistics about crimes involving Facebook and Twitter in a Freedom of Information request.

In 2008, a total of 556 complaints were made to police about social media postings on these 2 site. This had increased to 4,908 reports last year.

The figures also show 653 people were charged for social networking crime in 2011.

Greater Manchester Police charged the highest number of people, at 115.

Lancashire Police received reports of six threats of murder and there were numerous reports of sexual offences and fraud. But presumably the large part were claims of insult, offence or political incorrectness.

Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said:

These figures show just how badly some police forces had lost all proportion when dealing with social media.

So many arrests was clearly undermining freedom of speech and while the new guidance should reduce the problem, hundreds of people now have criminal records for the rest of their lives when it is far from clear they should do.

The law around speech crimes is still in need of a total overhaul as the legislation that led to some of the more absurd prosecutions remains in place.

Chief Constable Andy Trotter, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on communications, said forces must prioritise crimes which cause genuine harm, rather than attempting to curb freedom of expression.

Director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer QC announced the new guidelines on how people who post offensive messages on Facebook and Twitter should be dealt with. Hopefully reducing the number of people prosecuted for trivia.

Robert Sharp, campaign manager for English PEN, which lobbies on free speech and art internationally, said the prosecutions for hate online had been:

All young men between the ages of 18 and 22, they are all from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the things that they have been prosecuted for have been immature and inarticulate. There's almost a criminalisation of adolescence, and of poor literacy, that's one issue that seems to have emerged.

The communications laws being used are for grossly offensive messages. Offence as the trigger for prosecution is still a big problem. The case that is the most important is that of Azhar Ahmed, he is the only case of an ethnic minority. He posted something silly and illiterate about how soldiers were going to hell. He was prosecuted because far-right activists made a co-ordinated campaign to have him arrested.

So by using offence as the trigger for prosecution, you are putting the power of censorship into the hands of people who may chose to be offended for political gain. That's a big deal for censorship.

 

 Offsite Article: Banged up for banging on?...


Link Here 19th January 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
The arrest of an EDL leader for ranting against Islam on Facebook should worry anyone interested in freedom.

See article from spiked-online.com

 

 Update: Chilling Effects...

Keir Starmer admits that the current police enthusiasm for prosecuting internet insults having a chilling effect on free speech


Link Here 5th February 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Keir Starmer Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said too many investigations into comments on networks such as Twitter would have a chilling effect on free speech:

I think that if there are too many investigations and too many cases coming to court then that can have a chilling effect on free speech.

This is about trying to get the balance right, making sure time and resources are spent on cases that really do need to go to court, and not spent on cases which people might think really would be better dealt with by a swift apology and removal of the offending tweet.

There is a lot of stuff out there that is highly offensive that is put out on a spontaneous basis that is quite often taken down pretty quickly and the view is that those sort of remarks don't necessarily need to be prosecuted.

This is not a get-out-of-jail card but it is highly relevant. Stuff does go up on a Friday and Saturday night and come down the next morning. If that is the case a lot of people will say: 'That shouldn't have happened, the person has accepted it, but really you don't need a criminal prosecution.' It is a relevant factor.

Starmer stressed that people who wrote libellous tweets, or messages that broke court orders or were threatening, would still face prosecution.

 

 Offsite Article: On Joke Trials...


Link Here 5th March 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Keir Starmer The Director of Public Prosecutions talks to Index about Twitter, Facebook and diminishing free speech

See article from indexoncensorship.org

 

 Update: Fashion Police Trumped by Joke Police...

Woman convicted for tweet related to the Lee Rigby murder


Link Here 8th June 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

HM Courts ServiceA student who tweeted that people wearing Help for Heroes t-shirts deserved to be beheaded after soldier Lee Rigby was killed was arrested after complaining to police about getting threatening replies, a court heard.

Deyka Ayan Hassan contacted officers after receiving hundreds of vitriolic responses to the message on May 22, including threats to rape her and kill her by burning down her home, Hendon Magistrates' Court heard.

But she was herself later arrested at home after admitting to police she had tweeted as a joke about the design of the item of clothing:

To be honest, if you wear a Help for Heroes t-shirt you deserve to be beheaded

Hassan was ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work by magistrates, having admitted a charge of sending a malicious electronic message at an earlier hearing.

Chairman of the bench Nigel Orton told her she could have been jailed for what she did but that magistrates accepted she hadn't known it was a soldier who had been killed when she posted it.

 

 Update: ...And the Prosecutions Continue On...

The CPS has finalised its guidelines intending to reduce the amount of people persecuted for internet insults and jokes


Link Here 21st June 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Crown Prosecution ServiceThe new guidelines for prosecuting social media postings were offered in draft form some months ago, but now they have been finalised.

The CPS explain the general principles:

  1. Prosecutors may only start a prosecution if a case satisfies the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. This test has two stages: the first is the requirement of evidential sufficiency and the second involves consideration of the public interest.

  2. As far as the evidential stage is concerned, a prosecutor must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. This means that an objective, impartial and reasonable jury (or bench of magistrates or judge sitting alone), properly directed and acting in accordance with the law, is more likely than not to convict. It is an objective test based upon the prosecutor's assessment of the evidence (including any information that he or she has about the defence).

  3. A case which does not pass the evidential stage must not proceed, no matter how serious or sensitive it may be.

  4. It has never been the rule that a prosecution will automatically take place once the evidential stage is satisfied. In every case where there is sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution, prosecutors must go on to consider whether a prosecution is required in the public interest.

  5. Every case must be considered on its own individual facts and merits. No prospective immunity from criminal prosecution can ever be given and nothing in these guidelines should be read as suggesting otherwise.

  6. In the majority of cases, prosecutors should only decide whether to prosecute after the investigation has been completed. However, there will be cases occasionally where it is clear, prior to the collection and consideration of all the likely evidence, that the public interest does not require a prosecution. In these cases, prosecutors may decide that the case should not proceed further.

  7. Cases involving the sending of communications via social media are likely to benefit from early consultation between police and prosecutors, and the police are encouraged to contact the CPS at an early stage of the investigation.

Comment: The end of Britain's social media prosecutions?

See  article from  indexoncensorship.org by Padraig Reidy

Index on Censorship logoKeir Starmer's new guidelines aim to minimise controversial criminal cases against Twitter and Facebook users. But will they work, asks Padraig Reidy

...

Will these guidelines result in fewer prosecutions? It's impossible to say. There are still issues; the test of whether something constitutes a grossly offensive communication is still discretionary, with the CPS quoting Lord Bingham:

There can be no yardstick of gross offensiveness otherwise than by the application of reasonably enlightened, but not perfectionist, contemporary standards to the particular message sent in its particular context. The test is whether a message is couched in terms liable to cause gross offence to those to whom it relates.

...Read the full article

Comment: The proof is in the beheading

See article from spiked-online.com by Patrick Hayes

Spiked logo Post on Facebook and be damned

The police are banging up people for drunkenly posting comments on Facebook. Could you be next?

...Read the full article

 

 Update: Mass Arrests...

Clamouring to criminalise internet insults


Link Here 31st July 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Twitter logoMore than 1,700 cases involving supposedly abusive messages sent online or via text message reached Britain's courts in 2012, the BBC has learned following a Freedom of Information request.

This is a 10% increase on the figures for 2011, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Nearly 600 charges were brought between January and May 2013..

The revelations come as police say they are investigating abusive tweets sent to MP Stella Creasy. This has resulted in pressure 'to do something' about abusive messages sent via Twitter.

Del Harvey, Twitter's senior director of trust and safety, blogged that the micro-messaging platform would extend the report tweet function, already available on its iPhone app, to Android phones and desktops.

Andy Trotter, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers' communications advisory group told BBC Radio 4's The World At One:

They need to take responsibility as do the other platforms to deal with this at source and make sure these things do not carry on. They need to make it easier for victims to report these matters and, from a police perspective, they need to know that they can report these things to us.

A Change.org petition calling for Twitter to add a report abuse button to its service has attracted more than 71,000 supporters.

The question for Twitter is how, having made it easier for people to report abusive tweets, it will cope with the expected flood of reports.

 

 Update: A police team is homing in on bad taste jokers...

But the tweeters aren't worried, it's the Flying Squad!


Link Here 4th December 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Twitter logo A spate of supposedly 'offensive' Twitter remarks on the Glasgow helicopter tragedy has sparked a public 'outcry' as it emerged a teenager was arrested for posting sectarian and racist comments about the disaster.

Police Scotland confirmed that a 16-year-old had been detained for posting 'sickening' jibes in the wake of the Clutha pub catastrophe. The teenager was arrested on Sunday and held in custody in connection with remarks made on a social networking site following Friday's tragedy, police said.

 

 Updated: A police team is homing in on bad taste jokers...

But the tweeters aren't worried, it's the Flying Squad!


Link Here 5th December 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Twitter logo A spate of supposedly 'offensive' Twitter remarks on the Glasgow helicopter tragedy has sparked a public 'outcry' as it emerged a teenager was arrested for posting sectarian and racist comments about the disaster.

Police Scotland confirmed that a 16-year-old had been detained for posting 'sickening' jibes in the wake of the Clutha pub catastrophe. The teenager was arrested on Sunday and held in custody in connection with remarks made on a social networking site following Friday's tragedy, police said.

Update: Katie Hopkins under fire for throwaway joke

5th December 2013. See  article from  huffingtonpost.co.uk . Thanks to Phantom

katie hopkins Katie hopkins has built a career on brash utterances and saying what everyone else is thinking . But now, more than 44,000 easily offended people have signed a petition calling for former Apprentice contestant to be banned from any future TV appearances.

The former reality TV star turned professional contrarian and HuffPost blogger issued an apology after cracking a joke on Twitter about life expectancy in Scotland following the fatal helicopter crash on the banks of the Clyde in Glasgow. She had joked on Twitter:

Life expectancy in Scotland is 59.5. Goodness me. That lot will do anything to avoid working until retirement.

She later apologised:

My tweet on Scotland was directly related to this article: https://t.co/yijMFVbJp7 . I aologise to those I offended. It was poor timing.

 

 Update: The Age of Easy Offence...

120 hours of community service for inane Facebook comments about April Jones murder


Link Here 8th December 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
HM Courts Service An internet user who used Facebook posts to mock the search for murdered schoolgirl April Jones has been branded absolutely appalling by a judge.

Gordon Mullen was condemned by Scots Sheriff Iona McDonald for his remarks on Facebook two days after the five-year-old went missing near her home in Machynlleth in October 2012.

He made a series of posts in a three-way conversation:

His first post said: Hopefully the search for the missing girl doesn't go on like the Madeleine McCann saga and she just turns up dead.

Mullen then made a comment regarding Jimmy Savile, adding LMAO (laughing my arse off).

He also made a remark involving April Jones and Austrian sex criminal Josef Fritzel.

Mullen admitted breaching the Communications Act after his earlier arrest for failing to appear in court. Mullen was given 120 hours unpaid work.

 

 Update: Britain Needs a Nelson Mandela...

To fight against PC extremists and to restore our freedom of speech


Link Here 10th December 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
nelson mandela A man was subjected to eight hours of questioning by police and had his computer seized for three weeks just for making a few tasteless Nelson Mandela jokes on the internet.

Neil Phillips says he was also finger-printed and DNA-swabbed after officers received complaints about what he insists were harmless gags, eg:

My PC takes so long to shut down I've decided to call it Nelson Mandela.

He explained:

You can question the taste, but they're not hateful. I told the police they got plenty of likes . What happened to freedom of speech?

The disgraceful Liberal Democrat Councillor Tim Jones was so 'outraged' by the one-liners, aired at a time when Mandela was critically ill, that he made an official complaint. He claimed:

They are vile and deeply offensive, anti-Muslim, anti-disabled.

Staffordshire Police declined to go into detail about the nature of their over the top actions against Phillips. But a spokesman confirmed the arrest and said:

When he answered bail on September 30, he was informed that there would be no further action based on CPS decision of there being insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.

 

 Offsite Article: Twitter trolls are not 'normal' guys...


Link Here 22nd December 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Spiked logo The fact that just two loners are being done for the trolling of Caroline Criado-Perez explodes the myth of endemic misogyny online. By Rosa Minogue

See article from spiked-online.com

 

 Offsite Article: Keir Starmer advocates for cultural guidelines for police...


Link Here 25th December 2013  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Keir Starmer The former director Director of Public Prosecutions for the Crown Prosecution Service, has been active in drawing up guidelines for sensitive areas of criminal law. [But these still allowed the persecutions to continue]

See article from indexoncensorship.org

 

 Offsite Article: Online snitches, the real plague of the internet...


Link Here 25th January 2014  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Spiked logo The moral panic over online trolls grinds on...

See article from spiked-online.com

 

 Commented: Crimes Against Political Correctness...

Government supports amendment to increase the penalties for internet insults


Link Here 27th March 2014  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
House of Commons logo The government is supporting calls for harsher penalties for internet insults. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has backed Conservative MP Angie Bray's demands for changes to the law.

According to the Evening Standard , Grayling agreed that the legislation needed to be tightened to protect victims from malicious comments being directed at them via social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

Offences under the Malicious Communications Act currently only carry prison sentences that are no longer than six months, because such cases are heard at magistrates' courts. The proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, which will be discussed in Parliament on Thursday, could change that, presumably by allowing Crown Court scale punishments.

Comment: If we want to live in a society without offence we will live in a society without free speech

27th March 2013. See  article from  indexoncensorship.org

Kirsty Hughes, CEO of Index on Censorship, said:

Index is deeply concerned at the government's apparent intention to deepen the criminal penalties for grossly offensive communications sent through the internet or social media. Just last year, the then Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer put out a very sensible set of guidelines to limit the number of arrests for social media posts that may be offensive to some but did not constitute a criminal offence. Now we are going backwards. Offence is a subjective concept and if we want to live in a society without offence we will live in a society without free speech.

Offsite Comment: Free speech will suffer if politicians get tough on offensive tweets

27th March 2013. See  article from  theguardian.com by Robert Sharp

Thanks to online abuse, MPs may be about to remove our right to be offensive. But giving offence is a vital part of democracy

...Read the full article

 

 Extract: Is it right to jail someone for being offensive on Facebook or Twitter?...

Jake Newsome was jailed last week for posting insulting comments online. His is the latest in a string of cases that have led to prison terms, raising concern that free speech is under threat from over-zealous prosecutors


Link Here 15th June 2014  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

HM Courts Service On 30 April, two days after teacher Ann Maguire was stabbed to death by a pupil in Leeds , Jake Newsome, a 21-year-old man who had himself attended a secondary school on the other side of the city, posted on his Facebook page: Personally im glad that teacher got stabbed up, feel sorry for the kid@ he shoulda pissed on her too .

Thats not very nice reads the first of 37 comments on his post. Others soon chipped in, addressing him by his nickname: Greeny come on! You're better than that wrote one. Greeny seriously that's harsh wrote another. Greeny, not sure you should be saying this stuff on facebook man -- people get in trouble for this kind of stuff .

A few days later, after his post had been shared more than 2,000 times, West Yorkshire police arrested and charged Newsome under the 2003 Communications Act with having sent by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing nature . Last week Newsome was jailed for six weeks, after pleading guilty, with the judge quoting his post back to him and saying: I can think of little that could be more upsetting or offensive.

...Read the full article

 

 Update: Social media and the law on insults, trolling and harassment...

Lords committee to inquire as to whether vague internet insult laws are clear enough


Link Here 27th June 2014  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
house of lords red logo A House of Lords Communications Committee, chaired by Lord Best, will conduct a short inquiry into the legal and regulatory framework around social media and communications offences, such as one-to-one targeted harassment and trolling .

It is a problem that is in the news on a regular basis, and yet many people do not seem to realise that communications sent via social media are capable of amounting to criminal offences under a range of statutes. These include the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the Malicious Communications Act 1988, and the Communications Act 2003.

The Committee will be holding two evidence sessions, which will look at whether the legislation on the issue of social media and communications offences is appropriate and fit for purpose or would benefit from clarification; whether the line between free speech and protection of victims is clear; and more generally, whether the steps which have already been taken to deal with these problems are sufficient, or whether further action is necessary.

On a wider note, the Committee sees this piece of work as an integral part of pursuing its interest in the way changes in media and technology are likely to affect consumers' and citizens' behaviour and the way in which the legal and policy debate needs to respond. Questions

Questions likely to be raised in this inquiry include:

  • Whether the law currently covering offences related to social media and communications offences is capable of adapting to the way in which people behave, given the speed of changes in technology.
  • If there are areas of overlap or gaps in the range of legislation covering social media and communications offences, which means that categorising the offence is not always clear.
  • Whether the sentences handed out for social media and communications offences are known, consistent and appropriate and, more generally, whether other approaches, such as restorative justice and education, might be more effective.
  • How, in responding to these issues, reform to the current package of legislation can strike an effective balance between victim protection and freedom of expression.

 

 Commented: Is it all politicians can do, dream up new ways to imprison ordinary people?...

Government proposed to increase the penalty for internet insult to 2 years in jail


Link Here 22nd October 2014  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Ministry of Justice logo Internet insults could lead to two years in jail under new laws, 'Justice' Secretary Chris Grayling has said. He proposes that magistrates should be able to pass serious cases on to crown courts under the new measures.

He told the Mail on Sunday quadrupling the current maximum six-month term showed his determination to take a stand against a baying cyber-mob

These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life. No-one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media. That is why we are determined to quadruple the current six-month sentence.

As the terrible case of Chloe Madeley showed last week, people are being abused online in the most crude and degrading fashion.

This is a law to combat cruelty - and marks our determination to take a stand against a baying cyber-mob. We must send out a clear message: if you troll you risk being behind bars for two years.

Those who subject others to sexually offensive, verbally abusive or threatening material online are currently prosecuted in magistrates' courts under the Malicious Communications Act, with a maximum prison sentence of six months. More serious cases could go to crown court under the proposals, where the maximum sentence would be extended.

The law change is to be made as an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill going through Parliament.

Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, responded to the proposed new penalties:

Big Brother Watch logo The Justice Secretary should be focusing his efforts on incidents where real harm may be caused, not casting the net wider for anything that could be deemed offensive.

The Crown Prosecution Service and the police have completely failed to properly use the existing harassment law, which itself would address the actions of anyone who poses a serious threat.

The victims of serious abuse online, or indeed offline, do not need headline grabbing policies. They need definitive action to ensure that the police know what the law is when a compliant is made. It is that action which will keep them safe, not attempts to legally blur the line between illegal behaviour and being generally offensive.

Offsite Comment: Trolling 'is' a free-speech issue, and always has been

22nd October 2014. See  article from  spiked-online.com by Tom Slater

Spiked logo The UK justice secretary's announcement on Sunday that the jail sentence for abusive online trolling is set to be quadrupled, from a maximum of six months to two years, should send a chill down the spine of all freedom-loving individuals. The fact that a panic over the phlegm-spitting, misspelled missives of a few keyboard warriors has laid the path for heavy-handed state intervention into our communications sets a dangerous precedent for the future of free expression online.

...Read the full article .

Note that the increase in sentences for internet insult is not actually a new addition to the bill, the repressive measure has been included from the beginning.

 

 Update: Joke Police...

Disgraceful police persecute young man over bad taste joke on Twitter


Link Here 26th December 2014  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Northumbria police logo A young man has been arrested after allegedly tweeting a bad taste joke about the Glasgow bin lorry crash.

The man reportedly handed himself in to police after a number of whinges were made about the joke. He is alleged to have written:

So a bin lorry has crashed into 100 people in Glasgow eh, probably the most trash its ever picked up in one day that.

Northumbria Police made the ludicrous claim that the joke was 'a malicious communication', and the persecution has not stopped at the arrest. The police investigation is continuing and the victim has been bailed pending further inquiries.

 

 Update: Right to be Scared...

Asking parents not teach their kids the truth that the police will take them off to jail, say for internet insults


Link Here 25th May 2015  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
police jailSo in a week where the police ARE threatening to jail innocent kids for sexting, they are asking parents not to teach their kids that the police will take them away if they are naughty.

Many an exasperated parent has told their misbehaving child to be good or the police will put them in prison. But now one police force has issued a poster urging adults not to use this common threat. The poster from Durham Constabulary reads:

Parents. Please don't tell your children that we will take them off to jail if they are bad. We want them to run to us if they are scared, not be scared of us. Thank You.

However the kids would be better advised to keep clear of the police lest they get locked up for sexting, bad taste jokes, or even just insulting posts on Twitter or Facebook.

For example jailing them for internet insults

25th May 2015. See  article from  dailymail.co.uk

jail The number of prosecutions of internet trolls has soared eightfold in the last 10 years, according to new figures. More than 1,200 people were found guilty of offences under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 last year compared with 143 in 2004.

The law states it is illegal to send by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other material that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character .

Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show that 1,501 defendants were prosecuted under the law last year - including 70 juveniles - while another 685 were cautioned.

Of those convicted, 155 were jailed - compared with just seven a decade before- and the average custodial sentence was 2.2 months.

 

 Update: Dangerous tweets...

1209 people were convicted last year for internet insults


Link Here 27th November 2015  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Ministry of Justice logoLast year, 1,209 people were found guilty of offences of internet insult under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.

It is a crime under the Communications Act to send by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other material that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character .

Statistics released by the Ministry of 'Justice' (MoJ) show that 1,501 defendants were prosecuted under the law last year - including 70 juveniles - while another 685 were cautioned. Of those convicted, 155 were jailed - compared to just seven a decade before. The average custodial sentence was 2.2 months.

The MoJ figures also revealed a rise in the number of convictions under the Malicious Communications Act, which states that it is an offence to send a threatening, offensive or indecent letter, electronic communication or article with the intent to cause distress or anxiety.

 

 Update: A nightmare scenario of police stepping in to sort out personal squabbles...

Police chief calls for a simplification of law concerning online insults so that it is clearer when a crime is being committed


Link Here 6th March 2016  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
essex police logo The chief constable of Essex has called for new legislation to tackle an unimagined scale of online abuse that he clains is threatening to overwhelm the police service. Stephen Kavanagh argues it is necessary to consolidate and simplify offences committed online to improve the chance of justice for tens of thousands of victims:

There are crimes now taking place -- the malicious use of intimate photographs for example -- which we never would have imagined as an offence when I was a PC in the 80s. It's not just the nature of it, it is the sheer volume.

The levels of abuse that now take place within the internet are on a level we never really expected. If we did try to deal with all of it we would clearly be swamped.

No police chief would claim the way we deliver police services has sufficiently adapted to the new threat and harms that the internet brings

A group of cross-party MPs will introduce a private member's bill into parliament on Wednesday to update the law on cyber-enabled crime. The draft legislation, being introduced by Liz Saville Roberts, a Plaid Cymru MP, calls for a review and consolidation into one act of all the legislation currently being used against digital crime. It also calls for new powers to outlaw the use of spyware or webcams on digital devices without permission.

There are currently more than 30 pieces of legislation currently being used against online crimes. These include the Contempt of Court Act 1981, Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Malicious Communications Act 1988, Communications Act 2003, Offences Against the Person Act 1861, Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, Crime and Disorder Act 1998, Computer Misuse Act 1990, and the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

[What a nightmare it would be if the police got involved a wider remit of online insult. Injustice would surely prevail with the police always taking sides with the complainant. People would be quick to use false or trivial claims to settle scores with the ability to get people into serious trouble for minor insults or political incorrectness etc].

 

 Update: Let's jail everybody...

Former minister of censorship and political correctness calls for more prosecutions for internet insults


Link Here 14th April 2016  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
maria millerMaria Miller, the Conservative former culture secretary and equalities minister has claimed that Britain needs better internet laws to stop online abuse that may be creating a nightmare for society in future.

Now the chair of the Commons women and equalities committee, she said the government needed to wake up to some of the problems the internet was creating, from vile abuse on social media to easy sharing of violent explicit images among young people.

In 2014, ministers quadrupled the maximum six-month prison term for internet insults to two years. The time limit for prosecutions has also been extended to three years.

Miller now says that the laws around insult and harm on the internet could be updated further and internet companies could do more to act against threatening and abusive material online. She claimed:

We need better laws and we need better enforcement. Government needs to stop allowing internet providers from hiding behind arguments about the protection of free speech.

The problem is rooted in the fact that many internet companies won't acknowledge that they can challenge, and should stop, criminal behaviour, saying they are just like the postal service and can't help that people use their services for criminal activity, that it's not their problem. It is their problem and we need to sit up, take notice and realise that we are creating a nightmare future.

People are unleashing their inner venom in a way I just do not think is healthy for society. We have got to have an honest debate about this. Too many people in government are saying it is all about freedom of speech and it is not.

 

 Update: Jailing everybody...

The Crown Persecution Service outlines changes to widen the scope of prosecutions for insults on the internet


Link Here 11th October 2016  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Crown Prosecution ServiceSocial media users who encourage flame wars or retweet the doxing (revealing identifying information with malicious intent) of others are set to be punished more severely by British prosecutors.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)'s latest Guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media target doxing, online mobs, fake social media profiles and other social media misbehaviour.

Also included in the latest version of the guidance is a specific encouragement to prosecutors to charge those who egg on others to break social media speech laws. Those who encourage others to commit a communications offence may be charged with encouraging an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007, warns the guidance.

In a Kafka-esque twist, the guidance also includes this chilling line, discussing how prosecutors can prove the criminal offence of sending a grossly offensive message, under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003:

The offence is committed by sending the message. There is no requirement that any person sees the message or be offended by it.

Another nasty touch is that the CPS will allow victims to decide whether crimes are deemed to be 'hate crimes' and therefore attract more severe penalties. The CPS policy consultation defines race/religion hate crimes as follows:

Crimes involving hostility on the basis of race or religion

The reporting and prosecution of hate crime are shaped by two definitions; one is subjective and is based on the perception of the victim and the other is objective and relies on supporting evidence.

Both the subjective and objective definitions refer to hostility, not hatred. There is no statutory definition of hostility and the everyday or dictionary definition is applied, encompassing a broad spectrum of behaviour.

We have an agreed definition with the police for identifying and flagging cases involving hostility on the basis of race or religion. The joint definition is:

Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a person's race or religion or perceived race or religion.

The equivalent paragraph an disability hate crime adds explaining how the CPS has waved its hands and extended the scope:

This definition is wider than the statutory definition, to ensure we capture all relevant cases:

The guidance also encourages prosecutors to treat social media crimes committed against persons serving the public more seriously than nasty words directed against their fellow members of the public. Similarly, coordinated attacks by different people should also attract greater prosecutorial attention.

Prosecution in all cases is said to be less likely if swift and effective action has been taken by the suspect and/or others, for example service providers, to remove the communication .

 

 Update: PC PCs...

London Mayor sets up police unit to censor online insults and hate crime


Link Here 29th April 2017  full story: Trivial Insults...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
mayor of london logoA police unit to censor online insult and hate crime has been launched by London's mayor, Sadiq Khan.

The Online Hate Crime Hub is made up of five Met police officers who will try to identify, prevent and investigate online abuse. Sadiq Khan said officers would work with community 'experts' to develop the police's understanding of online hate .

The unit will cost 1.7m over two years. It is being funded by the Met and the Mayor's Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC), with 452,000 also being contributed by the Home Office Police Innovation Fund.I

Any online insult and hate crimes on the likes of Twitter and Facebook will be looked into by the unit.

City Hall said discussions were also under way with social media companies to develop appropriate online sanctions for perpetrators of online hate .

Spiked logoOffsite Comment: All hail Sadiq Khan's new Ministry of Truth

29th April 2017 See article from spiked-online.com by Guy Burchall

This is a deeply sinister and censorious move. But what's most worrying is that for something to be labelled a hate crime , it only has to be labelled as such by the alleged victim.

...Read the full article from spiked-online.com

 


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