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  • December 19th, 2012

Twitter Users Unlikely to Face Prosecution

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The DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) has, today, issued new guideline on how to deal with comments on social media.

The new guidelines are intended to find the balance between freedom of expression and upholding criminal law. Posts and messages that are deemed to be a serious threat, intend to harass, or break criminal-court orders – including reporting restrictions – will still be prosecuted “robustly”. However messages, even those consider to be offensive, may not be prosecuted.

The guidance has been issued following increased concerns that criminal prosecutions are being brought against people using the social media networks under outdated legislation which has been around before Facebook and Twitter were even invented.

“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,” said Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Chief Executive of Victim Support Javed Khan said:

“Victims tell us that sustained and vindictive targeting on social media can leave long lasting emotional and psychological scars, so we warmly welcome clarification on how prosecutors will deal with online threats or harassment.

“The distinction between communications which constitute a credible threat and those which may merely cause offence is sorely needed.

“In particular we welcome the guideline which makes a prosecution more likely if a victim is specifically targeted and this has a significant impact on them.

“We will watch how the interim guidelines are used with interest and will respond to them in detail during the consultation period.”

We’d love to hear your views on the new guidelines. Will this find the right balance between right and wrong? Is there now a clear definition?


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