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back to article UK to hold public consultation on social-media troll prosecutions

Mainstream and local press have covered trolling cases on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites into an inch of their life this year as public outrage about the phenomenon has led to some UK folk being arrested under suspicion of malicious communications offences. As a result, the director of public prosecutions Keir …

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Meh

So if .

john terry had said what he allegedly said ( or is it fact now, not sure) on a tweet, it would have been okay?

It has to be the 'pub test', if tom daley walked past and you shouted what was tweeted in front of people, would that be acceptable?

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Re: So if .

"It has to be the 'pub test'"

In the local wetherspoons probably not, in our local "cricketers arms" then yes. We call asif "blackie" because thats how he introduced himself to us years ago. Born and bred in Blackburn he is referred to as blackie not because he is asian and mildy dark. Context is appropriate.

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Anonymous Coward

"into an inch of their life"

What does that even mean?

The phrase you were looking for is "to within an inch of their life".

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Anonymous Coward

Am I still allowed to talk about my buddies hidden desire to eat poo and make love to animals? Does this all only apply to rich people and emotionally weak people or does it cover normal people too?

If an emotionally weak person reads me deriding my buddy for loving the delicious feeling of being poo smothered and storing poo filled condoms in the freezer am I in trouble? I don't know.

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Anonymous Coward

If someone like that is a "buddy' you've got more than just annoying tweets to worry about...

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Anonymous Coward

What about the guy that faps to zombies?

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Childcatcher

Ummm.... No

"...Am I still allowed to talk about my buddies hidden desire..."

... you're not. There is already a sort of 'depraved practices' law which defines acceptable sexual practice, as specified by the Home Office.

And the recent finding by judges that even one-to-one conversations count as 'publishing' mean that, if you talk to your buddy about anything not on the HO 'allowed sex' list, you will find yourself on the sexual offenders list, banged up in Broadmoor and provided with free chemical castration by experimental psychiatrists pretty sharpish...

Keep Britain Clean - that's what I say! No punishment is too extreme for these damn preverts...

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What about the guy that faps to zombies?

They made an animé of that - Sankarea.

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Anonymous Coward

@Dodgy Geezer

Well that's unfortunate, I'll just have to write it into 50,000 word prose and have it published on kindle and apple ebooks instead.

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Anonymous Coward

I liked Sankarea even if it was a total troll end. Though not a patch on Amnesia of the same season, god damn troll end.

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Mushroom

Play With Alligators Expect To Get Bitten

In a decade we will look back at the current 'social' 'media' with a sardonic grin.

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Anonymous Coward

If you can't stand the heat...

...get out of the blogosphere.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: If you can't stand the heat...

If you don't like to see children bullying each other, stay out of the playground.

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Legislating against hurty feelings is the epitome of a nanny state.

What next? The ministry of 'There, there. let me kiss it better.'

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Freedom of speech v the law

I dislike the very attempt to draw a line of where speech is "offensive enough" to be illegal. The crime should require causing substantial harm or fear - not calling somebody rude names, even if they are really really rude. Saying that the Prime Minister is a waste of oxygen, or that his predecessor doesn't have the management skills to run a bath, should be fine - as should saying I'd like to break the legs of either or both: it isn't an actual threat.

Now, if I sent either of them a message saying I was going to maim them, that's cause for the police to get involved - but calling somebody names, however nasty, should not be.

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Re: Freedom of speech v the law

At the risk of making things awkward for El Reg.....

I just want to check, and I would like those who upvoted you to answer too:

Would you have NOT acted in this case:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/13/internet-troll-jailed-mocking-teenagers

If 'not', do you think your opinion in this case reflect that of society in general?

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Re: Freedom of speech v the law

How topical - here's another example:

http://news.sky.com/story/987323/shot-pcs-man-arrested-over-facebook-page

So, would James 100, and the upvoters of his comment, say that no action was needed against that example of trolling?

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Boffin

Re: Freedom of speech v the law

@ Steve 6

The problem is, all the naffy stuff drowns out the serious stuff.

On the other hand, the case you highlight is covered by many laws that have existed in <legal> perpetuity almost. Maybe the CPS should be going for 'old-fashioned', well precedented charges, rather than new sexy ones except for where it's really relevant (thus putting their efforts into investigating the real boundaries of the issue).

When it is genuinely a new situation, yes consider the facts. Not whether it's 'offensive', but whether it was harrassment, incitement, etc. Your example is a good one, but I wonder if those connected will be prosecuted for some language to offend kind of thing, rather than the incitement to harm it may be (I myself have not seen the page). If they are guilty of the latter, it is a travesty if they stand trial for the former. Lower sentence for a start.

See the harm in unnecessary 'sexy' laws . . . they have a way of being used inappropriately . . .

nK

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Re: Freedom of speech v the law

Steve,

Whilst I don't think that kind of behaviour is acceptable, do you really believe it deserves jail time?

He'd have got off lighter if he'd burgled their houses.

Once you start jailing people for what they say, you end up on a very slippery slope.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/south_yorkshire/8673196.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16810312

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Re: Freedom of speech v the law

I haven’t stated or discussed whether or not those examples deserves jail time (my direct answer to that would be ‘probably not in those particular cases’; however, if there were elements of stalking or seemingly genuine threats then possibly). However, I am claiming that such behaviours must not be allowed and cannot go unpunished.

So, do you believe those examples show allowable behaviour? Do you defend them of condone them?

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Re: Freedom of speech v the law

Being a tasteless twat should not be a criminal offence. I support the right to have free speech, regardless of how offensive. Hurt feelings should not, in a free society, make a criminal of the originator of the comments. I don't believe in the concept of "incitement", either - if someone willingly and without duress acts on another's words, it is the actor, not the speaker, who is responsible.

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Re: Freedom of speech v the law

To put it another way, we could clear up a lot of unnecessary statutes by saying that, if there is a subjective element to the perceived problem (including "likely to .."), it is not the remit of the criminal law, but of the common law (torts, specifically).

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Re: Freedom of speech v the law

Just to check:

Do you support the right to do these (below), without fear of reprisal or punishment:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/13/internet-troll-jailed-mocking-teenagers

http://news.sky.com/story/987323/shot-pcs-man-arrested-over-facebook-page

?

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Re: Freedom of speech v the law

I assume you are asking me. I thought I had been clear, but, if you want a one word answer - Yes.

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Re: Freedom of speech v the law

To be clearer, behaviour can be modified in many different ways. To use the criminal law because someone is offended is a gross misuse of the State's power. Let people deal with it through private law if that is what they want to do.

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Re: Freedom of speech v the law

I tell policeman for example that they are the vilest form of dog policeman and that they policeman animals, so that makes them policeman policeman policeman, ugh!!

So the next time you want to say fcuk it say policeman!

So you see its not in a policeman word that you policeman use, its what it was policeman intended for.

So the question has to policeman asked, what the policeman is the policeman limit.

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Re: Freedom of speech v the law

Thank you. Your one word "yes" is clear enough". You should also appreciate that such an answer also negates the possibility of action through private law. My question had on association with private or criminal law; it was actually "without fear of reprisal or punishment:" (possible action through private law does not count as 'without fear of reprisal or punishment:').

So, to confirm my understanding: you really would allow, without fear of reprisal or punishment (in any form), people to desecrate personal online memorial and shrines even though they are being as nasty, persistent and personal as possible?

I've addressed the issue of private law lower down in this thread.

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So where exactly are they drawing the line?

Offence is subjective. Telling one person that they suck might be construed as a criticism, to another person, it might be an offensive put down.

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Pint

Re: So where exactly are they drawing the line?

Or it might be a compliment. I've know people who were proud of such skills.

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Facepalm

Twatter

It's a tricky one, especially as the "banter" that the sub thirty lot dole out is very abusive and borderline criminal. And quite a lot of porn is also now on twitter

Whilst it may be acceptable within your social circle to call someone a peado it may be deemed offensive to others reading the message. Twitter seems to be full of hate these days, and flaming the trolls has little or no effect. Also the actual tools of twitter seem a bit light touch. You could block the individual, but they could create a second or third account and continue where they left off. Alternatively you can send a spam report to twitter, but by definition they are not spamming you. Maybe twitter needs another option to report as offensive.

Not that it would work, not with things hash tags like #thingsinyourfannythursday where a young lady posts images that are NSFW and #thisguysacun.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Twatter

I saw a nice quote the other day "People that want to be offended will be" at the end of the day the problems aren't insurmountable what with being able to block and set accounts to private and shock horror, leaving the service and but if a person is reading someones feed and they don't know them then that's their problem, and if a person is following a hash tag that's going to offend them then they should be punished for being a dick

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Re: Twatter

If I try and defame you using social media then according to the law of this land I have committed an offence. Even if I don't know that a law has been broken.

If I send you a message publicly that I think you are a paedophile then you have the right push for some form of punishment.

The top 3 that you can be prosecuted under are -

Protection from Harassment Act 1997

Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994

Malicious Communications Act 199

but can also include

Public Order Act 1986

Now we all know that the law can be an ass, because it can never take into account the fact that I also talk to you like that and you usually don't mind. The fact is, you don't actually have to mind as this was sent publicly so only a busy body needs to take offence. Essentially to stay the right side of the law don't put something out into the community that is wrong, criminal, slanderous or likely to cause offence.

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Re: Twatter

You can add the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1993(?) to that list. That's the act that they're attempting to grossly misuse in relation to the Ched Evans rape case tweets. The wording of the act, and the intent when it was passed, was very clear: it was about controlling the broadcast media under editorial control - newpapers, radio, and TV. It was never intended to apply to gossip, which is what Twitter is the electronic equivalent of.

Not defending the abusive twit(er)s, but this is pretty disturbing.

I've written further about this: http://www.corestore.org/LC.htm

Mike

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EULA

You have every right to be offended by what i say, you also have every right not to listen to it.

By choosing to listen, you are agreeing not to be offended by it.

That's how it works isn't it?

or as we said when we were 5

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me

Get thicker skins people

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Re: EULA

How do you not 'listen' (or whatever) to trolling? Don't you have to read something first to determine what it is?

Also, what if the trolling is on your own sincere website/thread, should you roll over and give up on that too and allow the disruption? If so, why?

Choose not to be a waste of life, people

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Re: EULA

Not listening is a skill that , in my experience, everybody exercises on a daily basis. The ears process the sounds or the eyes scan the text but the brain ceases to process the information because it doesn't fit with the world view it's created.

Getting upset by words is a choice you make yourself.

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Re: EULA

Then you haven't listened either ;)

Yes, being offended is ususally a choice, but as I said earlier (timewise) in this thread: being deliberately offensive is also a choice.

Also, you didn't answer either of my questions.

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Re: EULA

what if the trolling is on your own sincere website/thread?

There are many options open to you. If it's your own website and censorship's your thing, you could pre moderate every comment or you could delete those you don't like after the fact.

Personally I find if you don't feed the trolls, they get bored and go away.

I've not, at any point, suggested you should roll over and give up.

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Re: EULA

"I've not, at any point, suggested you should roll over and give up."

Not you, but others have said it: "...get out of the blogosphere." "stay out of the playground."

Personally I find if you don't feed the trolls, they get bored and go away."

Then you've not encountered a real one; the nastier trolls create attention. Besides, trolls don't die, they go elsewhere for their attention.

To get to the point: are you actually saying society should not take any lawful action against these sickos?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/13/internet-troll-jailed-mocking-teenagers

http://news.sky.com/story/987323/shot-pcs-man-arrested-over-facebook-page

Do you really believe trying to ignore these guys is the best way forward? Really? If so, do you believe the general public would support you on that?

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A person *decides* to be offended. The law will have trouble with this one because there is no objective test for offensiveness of content...it's 100% subjective.

Best story subheading evar.

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Missed the point

You are right to say there is no reliable, foolproof test for the potential for offence. However, this completely misses the point.

The trolling that is being reigned in is really, really obvious attempt at strong and continued offence. Surely you don't need a test for the "X Factor" case", do you? Do you need a test for the 'Natasha MacBryde/Sean Duffy' case too?

Isn't it cases as clear-cut as those that people are concerned about?

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Re: Missed the point

Let's talk about clear cut. It's clear cut in many middle east countries that blasphemy is punishable by death.

Saying "I don't believe in god" is deemed to be offensive.

I hope that you agree that this is ridiculous.

I hope to persuade you that by allowing popular opinion to decide what is or isn't offensive will end up in a similar place.

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Re: Missed the point

You picked a really bad example: one that is invalid outside of this country and its laws.

I gave two very relevant/pertinent examples earlier:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/13/internet-troll-jailed-mocking-teenagers

http://news.sky.com/story/987323/shot-pcs-man-arrested-over-facebook-page

Do you think the UK populous would generally be so agreeing to let these perpetrators go without taking at least some action against them?

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Re: Missed the point

I don't think my example was bad. It is a law that is based purely on causing offense. It would seem that a large proportion of the people in these countries agree that it's offensive.

This is where laws against causing offense will lead.

As for the two examples provide you provided,

The first, i think, is bad behaviour. It's childish and shows that the perpetrator could do with some education.

It does not, in my opinion, warrant a criminal conviction.

The second example is different because, as already pointed out in this forum, inciting others to commit violence is already a crime.

As far as I'm aware though, it's easy to ignore a facebook group.

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Re: Missed the point

“I don't think my example was bad. It is a law that is based purely on causing offense. It would seem that a large proportion of the people in these countries agree that it's offensive.”

The potential for offence varies on a national basis.

“The first, ... It does not, in my opinion, warrant a criminal conviction.”

Possibly, but you do condemn it, right? It is causing grave offence (however you define it), right? Society should take steps to prevent this, right?

"The second ... it's easy to ignore a facebook group.”

What if the group was YOUR OWN, for your own child, as it was in one of the examples: “targeted Facebook tribute pages”

And it seems you are another who believes one should “roll over and give up”, is that correct?

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Re: Missed the point

Steve - why does what the majority want make it right? The general public are very often totally wrong, because they do not have the educational wherewithal to see the broader picture (a failing of government to provide adequate educational provision).

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Re: Missed the point

“why does what the majority want make it right?”

As I said elsewhere: would you prefer that kind of power to be in the hands of the few “idiot legislators and godlike executive powers”

"THE general public are very often totally wrong”

Indeed we are (even me :) ), but the legislators can be, not just wrong, but outright conflicted.

Moreover, governments seek to expand themselves, so I reckon if you left it up to the authorities, we would all have to surf with our real identities – just like China.

Do you really want to risk this?

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Re: Missed the point

No: see y comments above about this being nothing to do with legislators looking towards the next election. If you are offended enough to demand satisfaction, put your money where your mouth is and sue through private law channels.

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Re: Missed the point

The potential for offence varies on a national basis.

It varies on all kinds of basis, and that's a large part of my point.

Possibly, but you do condemn it, right?

Condemn is not a word I'd use, but I do agree that it's not an acceptable way to behave.

It is causing grave offence (however you define it), right?

No, I doubt that if i was on the receiving end of this that I would be gravely offended.

Society should take steps to prevent this, right?

I agree with the words you've used here. Yes society should take steps to prevent this from happening. Here's that word again; education.

And it seems you are another who believes one should “roll over and give up”, is that correct?

No, I just think some things aren't worth getting that upset about. It is, after all, just letters arranged in a particular order.

The world would be a much nicer place if people could accept that others have different views to their own rather than punching them, shooting them or insisting they be locked up.

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Re: Missed the point

Why go through the pain of private law? Have you any idea of how protracted/complicated/expensive these routes can be to the victims? Haven't the victims suffered enough at the hands of these nasty, persistent idiots? Why make the victims jump through hoops to stop something that is obviously idiotic, vile and waaaay oversteps reasonable social boundaries? And for what? To help defend the rights of hostile, anti-social f***wits intent on causing maximum possible offence and upset?

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