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back to article Prosecutor seeks sports-bodies guidance on troll-hunting rulebook

The views of sports men and women about social media trolling cases are being sought by the director of public prosecutions. Keir Starmer said late last week that he wanted to extend the consultation process he announced in September to include comments from the Football Association, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the …

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Here's why

A clear cut reason as to why they're cuffing trolls.

Oh yes, this year we increased the number of crimes looked into, and arrests made in respect to them. We managed to arrest and convict a total of 10% more people this year than last.

Okay okay so none of them were dangerous criminals, of whom we actually arrested 15% fewer, but trolling is a step away from becoming a sociopathic murderer. We're practically preventing real crime before it happens.

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Perhaps the first and basic rule should be that the person that is the target of the offence (or their legal representative) should make the complaint. "Taking offence by proxy" either by individuals or the media is becoming the norm and it should not be so ...

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Thought Police

I do find issues like this rather disturbing. I am neither condoning or objecting to what anyone has posted up on some web site; I really couldn't less what most of these people have to say.

But, like so much of modern society, prosecuting someone for being rude is nothing more than running a Thought police. It's like issues like racism (and no, I'm not in any way condoning that either), bad-taste jokes about pedophiles (oddly enough, I've heard a couple recently), poking fun at religion and various deities, and any number of other issues. The thing is, the law can not force people to like each other. It keeps trying, but it's never going to succeed. Yes, some of this stuff offends (being "offended" and "outraged" is so "in" these days, don't you find?), but locking someone up because they have been rude is not actually going change anything. It might make them bitter and more hateful, but it's not going to actually do any good. And fining them? What the hell is THAT going to achieve? Ah - money! The modern world's solution to just about everything.

Bottom line is people have always been, and always will carry with them various prejudices, and even hate (along with greed, it's why we have lots of wars), and there is bugger-all constructive you can do about it.

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Anonymous Coward

Looks as though...

...the specific meaning of the noun 'troll' and the verb 'trolling' has now been completely lost owing to the incomprehension of the press.

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Trollface

Re: Looks as though...

now that people associate trolling with something else entirely it makes our job a lot easier...

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Headmaster

Re: Looks as though...

> ...the specific meaning of the noun 'troll' and the verb 'trolling' has now been completely lost owing to the incomprehension of the press.

Not really. The fault is in reusing words with multiple meanings instead of making new ones up.

Those of us who've used the Internet for decades use the word 'troll' derived from the fishing term. (I used to catch mackerel by trolling when I was a kid.) Internet 'newbies' think it's derived from the Scandinavian monster alluded to in the "Three billy goats Gruff". In both cases we could have made up new words for the Internet phenomenon. Mind you, long used phrases like 'provocative git', for the former, or 'bully', for the latter, would do nicely.

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Trollface

Re: Looks as though...

I agree, even trolling ain't what it used to be. Take this discussion- a whole page of responses about trolling and nobody has even tried to encourage people to look at lemonparty for an interesting angle on the whole topic.

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Rob
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If they could...

... arrest Stephen Fry for being a troll, I'd say that is a good start.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm a police officer in Scotland and so far I've used Sec 127 of the Comms Act 2003 three times to achieve an arrest and been called to numerous incidents where it would be the applicable charge.

It involves all forms of electronic communication and is incredibly useful for people who are being threatend by text, email, etc.

There are a lot of catches with it though, so it's not an infallible charge. You have to be able to ascertain that the location the communications were sent from, were actually in control of the suspect at the time. Email's that have been left open on a shared PC, mobile phones left in a friends house, etc, can all be used as defence.

Anyway, at the end of the day, if it's used in a case where it's applicable, where abusive, malicious or threatening communications have been made, so be it, that's the right use for it.

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I think the simple tests should be based on malice and "pub chat".

Hate and continued harassment are one thing, but saying "<celeb/media tart> is a fag" is something else.

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Anonymous Coward

Here's a test

Oink.

Have I committed an offence? I don't know who you are, and you don't know who I am. What does the law say about unidentified offenders and unidentifable targets for said offense?

Can it be claimed that I knowingly commit an offence under that act against you, if I don't know who you are and you'v gone out of your way to hide your identity as well?

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@AC Re: Here's a test

I don't think you've commited any offence, apart from outing yourself as a twat.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Re: @AC Here's a test

We would be enraged with offence if we held any provable beliefs or were of any measurable minority/majority/individual interest group, but we are Anonymous and you shouldn't accept anything said as truth, as you are completely unable to verify anything we say, so for all intents and purposes we shall remain utterly ambivalent to you.

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FAIL

Re: @AC Here's a test

Oops, now the faceless horde will know my name!

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Mushroom

Erm..

If you're a police officer, why are you using a communications act to prosecute harassment that would normally fall under breach of the peace (in Scotland) or Protection from Harassment (in England and Wales). You're subverting an Act to prosecute crimes which already have more appropriate laws as discussed by the relevant assemblies. So no, that is not the right use of it at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Erm..

Well, for a start it's clear you have no idea what a Breach of the Peace actually is, and I suggest you go and look it up, but here it is to save you the time:

Breach of the Peace is a crime at common law and is constituted by one or more persons conducting himself or theirselves in a riotous or disorderly manner where such conduct is severe enough to cause alarm to ordinary people and threaten serious disturbance to the community.

Hence a text sent to your mobile from someone saying they're going to kick your head in, is not a BoP. Having a post put on Twitter is not a BoP as it's not a public place as per the definition of a public place.

The Comms Act was created to help deal with crimes that take place via a medium that the law has been very restricted in dealing with.

Anyway, thanks for your input on a subject you clearly know nothing about. :)

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Holmes

Re: Erm..

"Breach of the Peace is a crime at common law and is constituted by one or more persons conducting himself or theirselves in a riotous or disorderly manner where such conduct is severe enough to cause alarm to ordinary people and threaten serious disturbance to the community."

Or when you ask a difficult question of a copper who has overstepped his authority and he wants a way to 'teach you a lesson'

It's a very good catch-all for Strathclyde's "finest"

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Re: Erm..

Erm, actually I do, because it has been successfully used in precisely that fashion in Scotland only recently.

And thanks for your input on a subject it is quite frightening you know nothing about.

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Coat

Good for cyberbullying

I think that in cases of cyberbullying, this would be a good law to have. However, the number of celebs/media whores that are starting to whinge and complain about anyone saying anything about them is on the increase and the cops are starting to get involved and targeting people who just post vitriolic comments about oxygen thieves from the reality tv genre shows expressing their dismay that people are still allowed to inhale food and oxygen while people from third world countries are dying of starvation.

That being said, I think that I may need to go and clean out my personal blog of a few comments questioning certain 'stars' ability to walk and breathe at the same time. I'll just get my coat

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Re: Good for cyberbullying

ive never been able to shake off thinking of a giant demon carrying a rocket launcher whenever I see the word "cyberbullying"

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WTF?

Jurisdiction is paramount

Plod, apart from looking for an easy conviction, has to look out for jurisdiction.

What if the unhappy poster is domiciled elsewhere other than the UK or Europe? Ditto for the server.

And if the Troll is using a VPN, what then?

Plod is simply looking to make numbers look good and really it is as meaningless as the comments. Look at that blowing up the lousy airport - total waste of court time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Jurisdiction is paramount

The whole thing gets harder for plod by an order of magnitude when it crosses national boundaries. If you're talking about actual cybercrime rather than just trolling, plod's effective jurisdiction ends where the sea begins.

The problem for the UK police is that some foreign countries tend to give citizens rights and stuff, so they don't always just hand over IP and email addresses. If you are hiding behind seven proxies then it's almost impossible to get co-operation from every step in the chain.

The police in general and the PCeU in particular do a lot more work than most people think. But arsing around with trolls is a waste of their time.

Perhaps there should be an easier civil remedy instead?

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Re: Jurisdiction is paramount

almost impossible. would you risk it being almost impossible?

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Unhappy

What about the little people?

There is no sign of the public consultation that was referred to in the previous Reg article (or am I not looking at the right CPS site?).

It's OK for them to get opinions from celebs etc if they want, but I hope that's not all they're intending. I'd hate to see any special offence on the lines of 'being horrible to someone famous' - that wouldn't do at all.

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Big Brother

Having an opinion

May soon become an arrestable offence.

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For trolls, Freedeom of Speech doesn't come into it.

I've always lived by the rule of -

"If you don't have the guts to look a person in the eye and say it to their face, then you have no right to say it!"

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Re: For trolls, Freedeom of Speech doesn't come into it.

I wouldn't have had the guts to look Hitler in the eye and say he was an evil barsteward. Should I therefore not say it?

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Re: For trolls, Freedeom of Speech doesn't come into it.

How many countries did you have to fly to before posting that?

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Re: For trolls, Freedeom of Speech doesn't come into it.

Well think for a moment (I wouldn't give it any longer than that) that had you found yourself in front of Hitler, chances are the situation wouldn't be looking good for you, so you may as well go out defiant.

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Perhaps now that we're jailing people for saying stuff we find unsavoury we'll lay off other countries who jail people for saying things they find unsavoury (blasphemy, lese-majeste, etc).

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