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BBC website article on the current law vis-a-vis 'trolloing'

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BBC website article on the current law vis-a-vis 'trolloing'

Post  comperedna on Thu 23 Oct - 17:00

Apologies for being inexpert at copying stuff!

Who, what, why: What laws currently cover trolling?

Internet trolls could face two years in jail under new laws. But how does the British legal system currently police online abuse, asks Tom de Castella.

The sending of rape threats to Chloe Madeley is the latest disturbing case of trolling. Now the government says it will act to put trolls in jail for two years.

Nick McAleenan, a media lawyer at JMW Solicitors, says there are three main ways that trolls are prosecuted at the moment.

In England and Wales, the Malicious Communications Act 1988 covers comments that cause "distress or anxiety". Similar legislation applies in Northern Ireland. Sean Duffy was jailed under the act for 18 weeks in 2011 after he made "grossly offensive" comments about children who had killed themselves. Then there's the Communications Act 2003 which applies across the United Kingdom. It covers threats but often overlaps with the 1988 act, McAleenan says. It was used to jail a man who posted offensive messages aimed at the families of Jade Goody and John Paul Massey, a Liverpool boy mauled to death by a dog.

The third Act is the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which deals with stalking both on and offline. It applies in England and Wales, while Scotland and Northern Ireland have similar legislation. It can be pursued in both civil and criminal courts. It might have been used to prosecute Brenda Leyland, who killed herself after she was revealed to have sent up to 50 tweets a day about the parents of Madeleine McCann. It might be argued that what she did could also have been prosecuted under libel law.

The police are often reluctant to get directly involved in online stalking, McAleenan says. But recently there has been a rise in the police issuing warnings - known as a Police Information Notice - to suspected trolls.
Continue reading the main story
The answer

Malicious Communications Act 1988 - messages causing distress
Communications Act 2003 - threats
Protection from Harassment Act 1997 - stalking
But no clear definition of trolling

Critics sometimes question the balance between enforcement and the right to free speech. It can be a fine line. When someone on Twitter accused Tom Daley of letting down his dead father by not winning gold at the London Olympics, the police made an arrest, apparently under the 1988 act. And the 2003 act was used to convict a man who made a joke about blowing up Robin Hood airport in 2010. It was later quashed after a campaign backed by comedians. McAleenan believes the current laws are sufficient. The problem is a lack of resources, and the need for further education of the public and police about what constitutes an offence.



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Re: BBC website article on the current law vis-a-vis 'trolloing'

Post  kitti on Thu 23 Oct - 19:44

How was it libel what Brenda tweeted.


She answered other peoples tweets...



She didn't say the mccanns murdered Madeleine.


Didn't say they were swingers.


She 'gossiped' online.


So it's a load off old crap.

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Re: BBC website article on the current law vis-a-vis 'trolloing'

Post  Judge Dread on Thu 23 Oct - 20:34

kitti wrote:How was it libel what Brenda tweeted.


She answered other peoples tweets...



She didn't say the mccanns murdered Madeleine.


Didn't say they were swingers.


She 'gossiped' áonline.


So it's a load off old crap.

I agree... So, why was she targeted?

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Re: BBC website article on the current law vis-a-vis 'trolloing'

Post  almostgothic on Thu 23 Oct - 20:58

I agree that it is a fine line between enforcement and free speech, and I would rather err on the side of free speech, otherwise we will be living in an Orwellian nightmare (see my avatar) where no-one dare tweet, post or open their mouths for fear of getting on the wrong side of Big Brother. Or for that matter, Big Brother's Pooteresque wannabes - the Something Must Be Done Merchants, the ones who trawl the net seeking to be offended (or seeking to be offended on someone else's behalf), the Mary Whitehouse Reincarnations (winged specs, bow necklines and clenched hair). To name but a few.

Putting a point across in 140 characters is no mean feat. Many may 'get' the the wry comment - others will not, or pretend they do not because it suits their purpose. Literalists - they walk amongst us. á

And context is all - one cannot judge a tweet, a comment or a post in isolation - one must see what surrounds it.

As for Brenda, who decides that 50 tweets a day is excessive?
Are they going to be weighing everybody's bloody tweets next?
And how do 50 tweets compare with, say, 3 long forum posts per day - are they excessive too?

This way madness lies.
But if 50 a day is gonna get you a 2-stretch, one P Gurney's output would be worth a decade of porridge.
Oh yeah - Big Brother will be watching EVERYBODY.

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Re: BBC website article on the current law vis-a-vis 'trolloing'

Post  malena stool on Thu 23 Oct - 21:13

almostgothic wrote:I agree that it is a fine line between enforcement and free speech, and I would rather err on the side of free speech, otherwise we will be living in an Orwellian nightmare (see my avatar) where no-one dare tweet, post or open their mouths for fear of getting on the wrong side of Big Brother. Or for that matter, Big Brother's Pooteresque wannabes - the Something Must Be Done Merchants, the ones who trawl the net seeking to be offended (or seeking to be offended on someone else's behalf), the Mary Whitehouse Reincarnations (winged specs, bow necklines and clenched hair). To name but a few.

Putting a point across in 140 characters is no mean feat. Many may 'get' the the wry comment - others will not, or pretend they do not because it suits their purpose. Literalists - they walk amongst us. á

And context is all - one cannot judge a tweet, a comment or a post in isolation - one must see what surrounds it.

As for Brenda, who decides that 50 tweets a day is excessive?
Are they going to be weighing everybody's bloody tweets next?
And how do 50 tweets compare with, say, 3 long forum posts per day - are they excessive too?

This way madness lies.
But if 50 a day is gonna get you a 2-stretch, one P Gurney's output would be worth a decade of porridge.
Oh yeah - Big Brother will be watching EVERYBODY.


Except of course parents who leave their young children alone for hours on end......

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Re: BBC website article on the current law vis-a-vis 'trolloing'

Post  Guest on Fri 24 Oct - 8:45

always interesting to read a lawyers take, particularly a media lawyers take.

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Re: BBC website article on the current law vis-a-vis 'trolloing'

Post  jinvta on Fri 24 Oct - 19:22

IMO, this lawyer offers no new perspective and is just speaking out his backside. He appears to rule out the first two acts as being non-prosecutable in Brenda's case, but then goes on to state that she "might" have been prosecuted under the third act. Well "might" is quite a weak word. He does not say "probably" or "likely" or anything of the sort. So, what he is really saying, is that anything is possible in the nature of things. Master of the obvious.

Anyway, I would expect that prosecutors would not have wasted their time on this case, as no direct threat was involved and the alleged "victims" were not even aware of the alleged "harassment." Surely they would have directed their limited resources and time to other "cyber-stalking" cases that were more of a threat. And since Brenda's tweets offered no threat whatsoever, her case would rightfully have been at the bottom of the pile.

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Re: BBC website article on the current law vis-a-vis 'trolloing'

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