Categories: News

New Legal Framework to Target Online Trolls

Online communication has revolutionised the way we all keep in contact with friends and distant relatives. Not only that, the advent of social media platforms allows users to debate with strangers and forge new friendships. Of course, the downside to this is the idea of trolls and individuals who send abusive messages as a way of making themselves feel better. Trolls come in many forms and it’s not just someone who harasses another person. For example, trolling might involve someone who criticises someone’s work without logical reason and spams their content with assinine comments. Of course, there is a fine line between freedom of speech and trying to change this irritating behaviour.

The UK government’s Crown Prosecution Service has set up new guidelines to combat online trolls. More specifically, those who use derogatory hashtags or incite harassment could face prosecution. The director of public prosecutions claimed they would treat online abuse the same as physical and promised the measures wouldn’t “stifle free speech”.

In an interview during BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said:

“The internet’s not an anonymous place where people can post without any consequences. People should think about their own conduct.”

“If you are grossly abusive to people, if you are bullying or harassing people online, then we will prosecute in the same way as if you did it offline.”

On the other hand, Ms Saunders clarified that context will play a key role in the decision-making process and added:

“if you’re offensive, the legislation would say you have to be grossly offensive, and that’s quite a high test”.

Even though the Crown Prosecution Service’s motive to make the internet a more welcoming place is noble, it’s dangerously close to impacting on freedom of expression. Whether you’re in the real world or online space, certain people can spew nasty comments and react in a negative way. I feel enforcing this to a consistent standard will be challenging.

Do you think this is a positive aim or another way or infringing on people’s free speech?

John Williamson

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