UK internet trolls targeted with new legal guidelines
Internet trolls who create derogatory hashtags or doctored images to humiliate others could face prosecution in England and Wales.
Inciting people to harass others online, known as virtual mobbing, could also result in court action, under new Crown Prosecution Service guidance.
The director of public prosecutions said it means the CPS would prosecute just as if offences occurred offline.
But she stressed this did not mean prosecutors could “stifle free speech”.
The new guidance aims to help police identify online crimes more easily.
It also highlights those who post people’s personal information, such as bank details – known as doxxing.
Speaking to 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.”
However, Ms Saunders said context will be an important factor in decisions – for example “if you’re offensive, the legislation would say you have to be grossly offensive, and that’s quite a high test”.
One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she and her daughter, who has Down’s Syndrome, had suffered such severe online abuse over the last six years that they had to move house three times.
The abuse started, she said, when a friend wrote a book about trolls – anonymously but mentioning her by name.
“The trolls photoshopped images of myself and my daughter on to pornography and posted it on Facebook. They have said I’m a paedophile and called her hateful names like mongoloid; they even set up a website in her name.”
The woman believes the trolls kept getting hold of her details using official forms she submitted when complaining at the use of images of her daughter.
“Even after we moved, they have called us at three of four in the morning threatening to petrol-bomb our house if we will not give up the name of the author.
“It’s been horrific – this trolling is not free speech; it’s hate speech,” she said.
“However, Ms Saunders said context will be an important factor in decisions – for example “if you’re offensive, the legislation would say you have to be grossly offensive, and that’s quite a high test”.
the grey area..
“But she stressed this did not mean prosecutors could “stifle free speech”.
they will stifle whatever “they” regard as “hate speech”..