Offensive tweeters risk prosecution

 

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer, is set to issue new guidance to prosecutors on when social media remarks are so offensive that legal proceedings are warranted.
 
This comes after the DPP decided not to prosecute the professional-Welsh footballer Daniel Thomas after he tweeted a homophobic remark about Olympic swimmer Tom Daley.
 

The public domain

The inherent difficulty with Twitter, and other social media networks, is that comments which were published with the intent that only a few people should see them can quickly spread out of control without their maker aware of this unpleasant development. They can easily be put into another context than what they intended.
 
Social media users sometimes do not realise that they must take care when publishing content online so that they do not defame or offend others. In the case of Thomas, it was decided that he should not be prosecuted because his comment had been made without any intent to offend. Moreover, he had swiftly removed it once matters started spiralling out of control.
 
Announcing that guidelines will be introduced, and that they will be subject to public consultation, Starmer said: "Social media is a new and emerging phenomenon raising difficult issues of principle, which have to be confronted not only by prosecutors but also by others including the police, the courts and service providers. The fact that offensive remarks may not warrant a full criminal prosecution does not necessarily mean that no action should be taken."
 

Should social media users be worried?

Social media users should not be concerned per se, but they should use their common sense when they are publishing things online and be aware that remarks can quickly be taken out of context and abused by others.
 
The law has not kept up with the quick development of social media. However, it is trying to catch up and the guidelines will provide valuable guidance for both legal professionals as well as lay men.
 
If you'd like any information regarding social media use or trolling we can put you in touch with an expert solicitor in your area, free of charge. Call us now on 08001 221 2299.
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