Social Media – You and the law

Whether you twitter, blog or are simply just LinkedIn, you could be prosecuted under many different provisions which may apply and also the Communications Act 2003.

So, you may be tweeting away in your private home, on your Ipads, but the mere fact that your tweet may be grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or causes annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another could land you in some serious trouble.

On the face of it, tweets may appear explicit, obscene, offensive and even merit a penalty (objectively).  However, without clear guidelines existing, chances are that only the extreme cases will find themselves being prosecuted in the courts.

The DPP has recognised that this is a problem area and in an attempt to resolve, or partially clarify the guidelines added that “the guidelines would enable relevant authorities to use remedies other than criminal prosecutions to address instances of offensive activity.”  On paper, this sounds like an ideal solution, but how practical is this?

The proposals are optimistic but vague.  The main proposal being to separate cases of harassment or serious threat (which would be liable to potential prosecution), to the merely offensive/grossly offensive.  But, again, the interpretation applied by one individual to what he/she may find offensive is potentially quite different to another man’s perception of offensive wording.  Who will ultimately decide? Are we not opening the floodgates even further, or have the floodgates been barged open already by the Social Media Network and the ideology of ‘Freedom of Speech’.

The DPP is keen to protect the ‘free speech’, how far he will go to protect this is yet to be seen, and will others follow the same pursuit. One thing is for sure, the police force should be policing the streets and not the net, better systems are desperately needed to ensure that valuable resources are not wasted on too many petty rows online.

The law as it stands is somewhat unclear, and will be for some time I believe.  Until some clarity is apparent, best to be careful in what you post/publish as you never know what law you could be breaking.
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