Len Dastards takes a look at the law and trolling
Hola amigos! It is I, Len Dastard - El Bastardo, Murderer of Dreams. For those of you who do not know, I am a full Litigation Executive and imaginary retired Mexican wrestler. Quite the story, eh. Anyway, enough of my plática injustificada...
Something a little different this week. Lets take a look at what the law is doing (or, not doing) to prevent internet trolling. For those who do not know, trolling is officially* defined as "being a prick on the internet because you can".
Last month one of the most high profile cases of its kind was getting plenty of media coverage. Sean Duffy, a 25 year old full time internet troll, was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison for targeting Facebook tribute pages and posting videos on YouTube taunting suffering families. Comments were posted by Sean Duffy which were copied by other posters to join in much to the distress of the families.
Usually comments made are rarely considered defamatory (which is something we will consider another time) but they are usually hurtful, without reason, antagonising and just uncalled for. So, as it currently stands, what protection does the law offer those who are subjected to such comments? Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 (Improper use of public electronics communications newtork) provides:
Section 1 - a person is guilty of an offence if he:
a) sends by means of a public electronic communication network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or
b) causes any such message or matter to be so sent.
There is a maximum inprisonment term of six months or a fine of anything up to £5,000.
There is also some general protection offered by the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 which could be relied upon if you consider that you have been put in fear by such conduct and harassment.
Obviously some people will be more (or less) offended than others but the actual test of whether the message is "grossly offensive" is based on the case of DPP v Collins 2006 and considered by the "reasonable man". If you have a spare few hours, you can take a look at the case information here.
Most trolling is pretty trivial and quite possibly something that many of us are used to seeing and dealing with. Does the law do enough to combat trolling or is it not really not a big problem? It will be interesting to hear some views...
*probably not official.
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