Trivial Insults and Jokes

Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter



 

Update: Bad Policing...

Are police realising that its a crap job arresting little people for trivial insults?


Link Here 1st August 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Police admitted last night that they are being dragged into too many Twitter disputes as a row raged over the decision to arrest a youth who abused Olympic diving star Tom Daley.

The police over reacted and swooped on the home of Reece Messer, 17, at 2.45am yesterday as if he was some sort of highly dangerous master criminal.

Last night, as Dorset police handed the troubled teenager a formal harassment warning, police leaders claimed forces are being dragged into too many petty social media rows.

Officers were asked to look at content 14,000 times on Facebook alone last year and Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said forces do not have the resources to monitor the internet. He said:

There is legislation which concerns causing harassment, alarm or distress. But can we police the internet when someone upsets someone else?

I don't think we have the resources to do that. We can't have a free-for-all online but we cannot involve the police every time something unpleasant is said.

 

 

Updated: The 1936 Berlin Olympics?...

A 17 year old arrested for a nasty tweet to athlete Tom Daley


Link Here 1st August 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

A 17-year-old has been arrested after insulting tweets were sent to Olympic diver Tom Daley accusing him of letting his late father down.

Dorset Police have confirmed the teenager was arrested on suspicion of 'malicious' communications at a guest house in Weymouth following a series of abusive messages.

Daley and his partner Pete Waterfield missed out on a medal \ when they finished fourth in the men's synchronised 10m platform diving event at the Olympics.

Shortly afterwards, Daley retweeted a message from user Rileyy69 which said: You let your dad down i hope you know that.

Daley responded by tweeting: After giving it my all...you get idiot's sending me this...

Rileyy69 apologised: @TomDaley1994 I'm sorry mate i just wanted you to win cause its the olympics I'm just annoyed we didn't win I'm sorry tom accept my apology.

The apologetic messages were interspersed with a stream of expletives and further abuse to other users.

Update: Nastier comments than originally reported

1st August 2012. See article from thedigitalreport.net . Thanks to David

The arrest of the guy tweeting insults to Tom Daley seems to be more about specific, if hardly credible, threats of violence that he made to Daley and at least one other individual.

So it's not just the usual thought police thing this time, though with the cops and CPS having cried wolf enough times with previous stupid Twitter cases...

Offsite Comment: The best response to cruel, offensive or disgusting tweets, is simply to ignore them

1st August 2012. See  article from  guardian.co.uk by John Kampfner

 

 

Update: Insulting People GB...

The trivial insult elevated to serious crime


Link Here 2nd August 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

A Welsh Premier League footballer has been suspended after a supposedly homophobic tweet was sent to Olympic diver Tom Daley.

Port Talbot Town FC said midfielder Daniel Thomas has been the victim of a misguided prank after leaving his phone unattended, but said they have suspended the player and are investigating. A club spokesman said:

Port Talbot Town Football Club can confirm Daniel Thomas has been suspended from all involvement with the club until we have carried out a full internal investigation.

We were made aware to an offensive comment appearing on the Twitter feed of one of our players.

Having spoken at length to the player in question, we believe he regrettably left his phone unattended and was the victim of a very misguided 'prank'.

The club said it and Thomas apologised unreservedly and in no way condoned the views made in the tweet.

 

 

Offsite Article: Dorset Police Censorship...


Link Here 3rd August 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
The arrest of the Tom Daley tweeter was not an isolated act by idle coppers -- it was part of today's sweeping culture of intolerance. By Brendan O'Neill

See article from blogs.telegraph.co.uk

 

 

Trivial Tweets: Pandering to the Easily Offended...

Can't the ombudsman just say no for once


Link Here 3rd August 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

A complaint has been made to a PC watchdog about a councillor accused of suggesting on Twitter that a woman turn to prostitution to earn money.

According to the Western Mail, Carmarthenshire councillor John Jenkins responded to a female Twitter user who said she needed to earn money quickly by writing:

Prostitution? On a serious note, good money in being in an escort.

Jenkins, who represents Elli in Llanelli as an independent, said:

Someone has obviously gone to a lot of effort to trawl through an archive of my private communications to find something that they can take out of context to make me look bad. Continue reading the main story Start Quote

In no way can private banter between friends, none of which were offended by the obvious tongue-in-cheek banter, be considered offensive.

He said he had been the subject of a vexatious, politically-motivated complaint and looked forward to explaining it to the ombudsman if the watchdog thinks there is a case to answer.

A spokeswoman for the Public Services Ombudsman confirmed a complaint had been made. She said it would be considered before a decision is taken whether to launch a formal investigation.

 

 

Update: Police Don't Need New Laws for Twitter...

But it's us that need new laws to preserve free speech


Link Here 5th August 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Twitter should take action as quickly as possible to deal with supposed abuse on its website, according to a senior police officer.

Stuart Hyde, chief constable of Cumbria police who speaks on e-crime for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said it was right for police to intervene in cases of bullying on twitter.

Asked if new laws were needed, Hyde told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

No, I think we have got quite a lot of legislation, dating back to the Malicious Communications Acts of 1998 and 2003. There is a lot there that helps us and gives us the power to do stuff.

This is a new technology, a new way of communicating, it has grown exponentially. There hasn't been separate legislation, so we are using legislation that wasn't particularly created for this, but it works reasonably well most of the time.

We are learning from it, there are things that have sometimes gone wrong and I think sometimes it is important that we make sure we provide the service people need.

If people come to us and say 'I am really upset, I've been offended, my life has been made a misery and I want somebody to do something about it', then yes the police should, whenever possible, try to help.

I don't want police officers dragged off the streets to deal with frivolous complaints. Where these complaints are pretty serious, then it is quite right that we should intervene, and we do that.

It is important to look at the whole context. It is not just about one tweet, it is a whole range of tweets.

Look at what the individual has done -- is this a concerted attempt to have a go at one individual in a way that passes the threshold for offences against the law? If it is, then clearly we should intervene and do something to stop it.

But Hyde said that police have so far not received large numbers of complaints about abusive Twitter messages.

 

 

Update: Harassing Tweeters...

Britain leads the way in persecuting its people over internet insults


Link Here 21st August 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Police and prosecutors in the UK are accused of being incredibly heavy-handed when dealing with insulting internet messages.

It follows several cases where young people have been arrested, fined or jailed after posting insulting comments on their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Bernie Hogan from the Oxford Internet Institute monitors what happens in other countries. He said that although the UK was leading the way in cracking down on this type of online abuse, by comparison we are incredibly heavy-handed .

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said in a statement: People have a right to publish their views but when these views become indecent, threatening or offensive then the individuals they affect also have the right to report them. The police will assist with any prosecution.

Index, which campaigns for freedom of expression, say the cases are silly and the police only pursues them because they are easy prosecutions .

 

 

Update: Hopefully the CPS to Become Less Prone to Easy Offence...

CPS set to reconsider the definitions of insults before they end up prosecuting everyone in the country


Link Here 21st September 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecution has made a statement after deciding to pursue a case involving insulting tweets. Starmer said:

On 30 July 2012 Daniel Thomas, a semi-professional footballer, posted a homophobic message on the social networking site, Twitter. This related to the Olympic divers Tom Daley and Peter Waterfield. This became available to his followers. Someone else distributed it more widely and it made its way into some media outlets. Mr Thomas was arrested and interviewed. The matter was then referred to CPS Wales to consider whether Mr Thomas should be charged with a criminal offence.

The Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to send a communication using a public electronic communications network if that communication is grossly offensive. It is now established that posting comments via Twitter constitutes sending a message by means of a public electronic communications network. It is also clear that the offence is committed once the message is sent, irrespective of whether it is received by any intended recipient or anyone else. The question in this case is therefore whether the message posted by Mr Thomas is so grossly offensive as to be criminal and, if so, whether a prosecution is required in the public interest.

There is no doubt that the message posted by Mr Thomas was offensive and would be regarded as such by reasonable members of society. But the question for the CPS is not whether it was offensive, but whether it was so grossly offensive that criminal charges should be brought. The distinction is an important one and not easily made. Context and circumstances are highly relevant and as the European Court of Human Rights observed in the case of Handyside v UK (1976), the right to freedom of expression includes the right to say things or express opinions ...that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population.

The context and circumstances in this case include the following facts and matters:

  • (a) However misguided, Mr Thomas intended the message to be humorous.

  • (b) However naive, Mr Thomas did not intend the message to go beyond his followers, who were mainly friends and family.

  • (c) Mr Thomas took reasonably swift action to remove the message.

  • (d) Mr Thomas has expressed remorse and was, for a period, suspended by his football club.

  • (e) Neither Mr Daley nor Mr Waterfield were the intended recipients of the message and neither knew of its existence until it was brought to their attention following reports in the media.

This was, in essence, a one-off offensive Twitter message, intended for family and friends, which made its way into the public domain. It was not intended to reach Mr Daley or Mr Waterfield, it was not part of a campaign, it was not intended to incite others and Mr Thomas removed it reasonably swiftly and has expressed remorse. Against that background, the Chief Crown Prosecutor for Wales, Jim Brisbane, has concluded that on a full analysis of the context and circumstances in which this single message was sent, it was not so grossly offensive that criminal charges need to be brought.

Before reaching a final decision in this case, Mr Daley and Mr Waterfield were consulted by the CPS and both indicated that they did not think this case needed a prosecution.

This case is one of a growing number involving the use of social media that the CPS has had to consider. There are likely to be many more. The recent increase in the use of social media has been profound. It is estimated that on Twitter alone there are 340 million messages sent daily. And the context in which this interactive social media dialogue takes place is quite different to the context in which other communications take place. Access to social media is ubiquitous and instantaneous. Banter, jokes and offensive comment are commonplace and often spontaneous. Communications intended for a few may reach millions.

Against that background, the CPS has the task of balancing the fundamental right of free speech and the need to prosecute serious wrongdoing on a case by case basis. That often involves very difficult judgment calls and, in the largely unchartered territory of social media, the CPS is proceeding on a case by case basis. In some cases it is clear that a criminal prosecution is the appropriate response to conduct which is complained about, for example where there is a sustained campaign of harassment of an individual, where court orders are flouted or where grossly offensive or threatening remarks are made and maintained. But in many other cases a criminal prosecution will not be the appropriate response. If the fundamental right to free speech is to be respected, the threshold for criminal prosecution has to be a high one and a prosecution has to be required in the public interest.

To ensure that CPS decision-making in these difficult cases is clear and consistent, I intend to issue guidelines on social media cases for prosecutors. These will assist them in deciding whether criminal charges should be brought in the cases that arise for their consideration. In the first instance, the CPS will draft interim guidelines. There will then be a wide public consultation before final guidelines are published. As part of that process, I intend to hold a series of roundtable meetings with campaigners, media lawyers, academics, social media experts and law enforcement bodies to ensure that the guidelines are as fully informed as possible.

But this is not just a matter for prosecutors. 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. In my view, the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media.

 

 

Update: Easily Offended Manchester Police...

Getting heavy over another football insult on Twitter


Link Here 29th September 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

A football fan who sent a Twitter insult about Premier League referee and cancer survivor Mark Halsey following last weekend's Liverpool v Manchester United game has been cautioned by police.

Liverpool supporter John Wareing tweeted: I hope Mark Halsey gets cancer again and dies , after the official sent off Reds midfielder Jonjo Shevley and handed United a late penalty that gave Sir Alex Ferguson's side a 2-1 win.

Commenting on the incident, easily offended DS Tony Lunt of Greater Manchester Police spouted:

Clearly the victim and his family were very distressed by the extremely offensive comments posted on Twitter. We take all reports of abuse on social networking sites very seriously as these remarks can and do have a devastating impact on people's lives.

As a result of our investigation, we have cautioned a man who has admitted responsibility for some of the messages. This individual was very apologetic and realises that in a moment of stupidity he posted deeply derogatory remarks about the victim and completely regrets his actions.

Our inquiries are ongoing to identify anyone else who posted these offensive messages.

 

 

Update: Britain's Joke Police Worry about Workload in Policing Jokes and Insults...

And don't give a shit about the devastation that they are causing to people's lives


Link Here 10th October 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

The director of public prosecutions is exploring whether Facebook and Twitter should take more responsibility for censoring their networks for supposed abuse and harassment in an attempt to reduce the number of cases of people being persecuted for jokes or insults.

Keir Starmer is this week consulting with lawyers, journalists and police in a series of seminars on the subject. He seems keen to ask if social media companies can censor their sites because police are concerned about the volume of offensive posts and tweets they may be called to investigate.

Those attending the panels said Starmer frequently returned to the subject, and he is preparing to draw up guidelines against an almost daily backdrop of arrests, prosecutions and controversy. But there is no immediate consensus on what greater self-regulation for social media would look like.

The growing number of arrests often invoke the repressive section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act, which makes it an offence to send or post grossly offensive material online.

Meanwhile, police are worried about the time spent examining cases and that it will only be practicable to investigate a handful of cases where emotions are running high. Andy Trotter, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on media issues, said: Many offensive comments are made every day on social media and guidance will assist the police to focus on the most serious matters.

Police would like Facebook and Twitter to act faster in deleting offensive comments to avoid arrests being necessary and to see if it is possible to explore ways of blocking particular individuals from using their networks.

 

 

Comments: PC Sheep at UK Court...

Man shamefully jailed for 12 weeks for bad taste jokes


Link Here 10th October 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

A teenager who posted bad taste jokes about April Jones on his Facebook page has been jailed for 12 weeks.

Matthew Woods made comments about April and Madeleine McCann. Woods was arrested for his own safety after about 50 people descended on his home.

He pleaded guilty at Chorley magistrates court to sending by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is 'grossly offensive'.

The chairman of the bench, Bill Hudson, said Woods's comments were so abhorrent he deserved the longest sentence the court could hand down. Hudson added: The reason for the sentence is the seriousness of the offence, the public outrage that has been caused and we felt there was no other sentence this court could have passed which conveys to you the abhorrence that many in society feel this crime should receive.

The court was told Woods's Facebook page was available to a large number of people but there's no mention of how many people actually saw it.

Martina Jay, persecuting, said: He saw a joke on Sickipedia [an online database devoted to sick jokes] and changed it slightly.

Among Woods's comments were: Who in their right mind would abduct a ginger kid? In another he said: I woke up this morning in the back of a transit van with two beautiful little girls, I found April in a hopeless place. He also wrote: Could have just started the greatest Facebook argument EVER. April fools, who wants Maddie? I love April Jones. Also posted were comments of a more sexually explicit nature.

The CPS has confirmed that it reviewed the case and was content with the prosecution going ahead.

Offsite Comment: No one should be put in prison for making a joke that other people don’t like.

9th October 2012. See  article from  blog.indexoncensorship.org by Padraig Reidy

Offsite Comment: Twelve weeks in prison for sick jokes on Facebook? Really?

10th October 2012. See  article from  ukhumanrightsblog.com

Offsite Comment: Don't make me laugh

10th October 2012. See  article from  openrightsgroup.org

Offsite Editorial: In the end the solution will have to be rewriting or even repealing this law.

10th October 2012. See  article from  guardian.co.uk

Update: An insulting reduction of sentence on appeal

15th November 2012. See  article from  lancashiretelegraph.co.uk

A man jailed for posting insults on his Facebook page about missing schoolgirl April Jones has had his twelve weeks sentence cut to eight weeks.

Matthew Woods successfully appealed against his sentence at Preston Crown Court having claimed the twelve week term was excessive and that magistrates should have given him credit for his guilty plea.

Update: Another victim gets a suspended prison sentence

19th November 2012. See  article from  guardian.co.uk

A sales adviser who made a series of bad taste comments about five-year-old April Jones on Facebook has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Magistrates in Worcester chose not to jail Sam Busby despite being told that another Facebook user was sentenced to three months in prison for an almost identical offence last month.

Busby admitted he was responsible for the comments and told officers he thought they could only be seen by his friends on Facebook.

Passing a six-week jail term suspended for 18 months, magistrates said they had taken into account Busby's early guilty plea and remorse.

The chairman of the bench, Gill Porter, told the teenager:

You will realise by the time we have taken to discuss this matter how seriously we view it. You have caused an immense amount of distress, not only to the recipient of this but potentially to April Jones's family and friends.

It happened at a very sensitive time for everybody concerned. You were warned by your friends when they first saw your so-called joke, but you took no notice and you continued to make further even more offensive comments.

Busby was also ordered to pay an 80 victim surcharge and keep to a 7pm-7am curfew for eight weeks.

Update: Insulting Sentence

8th October 2013.  See  article from  walesonline.co.uk

A man who sent insulting messages on Facebook mocking the search for murdered five-year-old April Jones claimed his freedom of expression was breached, a court heard.

Liam Young posted supposedly shocking and offensive remarks online two days after April Jones went missing last year.

He avoided a jail sentence but angered a sheriff after claiming social network messaging should be unrestricted in a democratic society . Young was given 120 hours unpaid work after admitting disorderly conduct by sending indecent and offensive comments.

Sheriff Murphy highlighted Young's remarks to social workers, saying: It concerns me that someone believes they can say what they like on Facebook because they live in a democratic society.

 

 

Offsite Article: A Tasteless Facebook Update...


Link Here 11th October 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
More evidence of Britain's terrifying new censorship. Have we got such a debased and demoralised view of freedom that we're now willing to lock up people for posting angry comments on social media

See article from independent.co.uk

 

 

Update: Insulting to Free Speech...

Police get involved in 4000 petty squabbles on Facebook


Link Here 28th October 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Police have gotten involved in 4,000 petty squabbles on Facebook and Twitter. Statistics from 22 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales show arrests for insulting messages are averaging three a day.

The police say they are wasting valuable time and resources tackling internet users directing abuse at each other. In most cases, police simply tell victims to delete their tormentors from their networks, but the Crown Prosecution Service says a few dozen   incidents have led to court, with the figure growing rapidly in recent months.

An policeman from North Wales said:

You will always have one or two serious incidents of harassment and bullying on Facebook and the like but for the most part it's petty stuff. It takes up a lot of time and the normal result is advice from us to all parties to grow up.

Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said:

We have concerns that we don't have the resources to police everything that's said on the internet. We can't have people getting upset in a one-off situation and involving the police. I do think this could be the thin end of the wedge. If we show too much willingness and get involved in every squabble, we're setting ourselves up to keep doing this because it will be expected.

Statistics from 22 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales show there were at least 4,098 arrests under the relevant laws between the start of 2009 and the middle of 2012, averaging three a day. More than 2,000 people were either charged or given an out-of-court fine or caution.

 

 

Offsite Article: Britain's crackdown on Web comments sparks free-speech debate...


Link Here 9th November 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
Los Angeles Times reports on the loss of free speech in Britain

See article from latimes.com

 

 

Update: In Remembrance of British Free Speech...

Kent police accused of malicious use of the Malicious Communications Act


Link Here 12th November 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

A man has fallen victim to Kent Police who detained him for posting an image of a burning poppy on Facebook. He was detained on Sunday night on suspicion of making malicious telecommunications.

The force tried to justify their attack on free speech in a statement:

A man (was) interviewed by police this morning following reports that a picture of a burning poppy had been posted on a social media website.

Officers were contacted at around 4pm yesterday and alerted to the picture, which was reportedly accompanied by an offensive comment.

The offensive comment was the trivial comment:

How about that you squadey cunts

The man was later released pending further inquiries.

His detention was met with disbelief on Twitter, where people mounted a fierce discussion over civil liberties. David Allen Green, a journalist and lawyer for the New Statesman, tweeting as Jack of Kent, wrote:

What was the point of winning either World War if, in 2012, someone can be casually arrested by Kent Police for burning a poppy?

Australian musician and comedian Tim Minchin also expressed his incredulity, tweeting:

You've a right to burn a (fake!) poppy. Whether I agree with the action is utterly irrelevant. Kent Police are out of line.

 

 

Offsite Article: For God's sake...


Link Here 15th November 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
The Director of Public Persecutions *still* doesn't understand how the internet works. Meanwhile, he's planning to censor it

See article from blogs.telegraph.co.uk

 

 

Update: Insults Beyond Offensive...

DPP updates guidelines to prevent internet users from being prosecuted for trivial insults


Link Here 19th December 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

New guidelines could see fewer people being charged in England and Wales for offensive messages on social networks.

The Director of Public Persecutions said people should only face a trial if their comments on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere go beyond being offensive. He claimed the guidance combats threats and internet trolls without having a chilling effect on free speech.

The guidance comes after a string of cases of prosecutions for jokes, and trivial insults, including the prosecution of a man who tweeted a joke threatening to blow up an airport.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had now dealt with more than 50 cases relating to potentially criminal comments posted online.

He said the interim guidelines, which come into force immediately, clarified which kinds of cases should be prosecuted and which would only go ahead after a rigorous assessment whether it was in the public interest to prosecute.

The guidance says that if someone posts a message online that clearly amounts to a credible threat of violence, specifically targets an individual or individuals, or breaches a court order designed to protect someone, then the person behind the message should face prosecution.

People who receive malicious messages and pass them on, such as by retweeting, could also fall foul of the law.

However, online posts that are merely grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false would face a much tougher test before the individual could be charged under laws designed to prevent malicious communications. Starmer said that many suspects in this last category would be unlikely to be prosecuted because it would not be in the public interest to take them to court. This could include posts made by drunk people who, on sobering up, take swift action to delete the communication. Starmer said:

These interim guidelines are intended to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to uphold the criminal law.

The interim guidelines thus protect the individual from threats or targeted harassment while protecting the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some and painful to those subjected to it.

Although the interim guidance is now in force, its final form is subject to a consultation that runs until 13 March 2013.

 

 

Update: Restricting Prosecutions for Insults...

Details about new DPP guidelines on prosecuting social media communications


Link Here 20th December 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has published interim guidelines setting out the approach prosecutors should take in cases involving communications sent via social media.

The guidelines are designed to give clear advice to prosecutors and ensure a consistency of approach across the CPS to these types of cases.

Starmer said:

These interim guidelines are intended to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to uphold the criminal law.

They make a clear distinction between communications which amount to credible threats of violence, a targeted campaign of harassment against an individual or which breach court orders on the one hand, and other communications sent by social media, e.g. those that are grossly offensive, on the other.

The first group will be prosecuted robustly whereas the second group will only be prosecuted if they cross a high threshold; a prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest if the communication is swiftly removed, blocked, not intended for a wide audience or not obviously beyond what could conceivably be tolerable or acceptable in a diverse society which upholds and respects freedom of expression.

The interim guidelines thus protect the individual from threats or targeted harassment while protecting the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some and painful to those subjected to it.

We want the interim guidelines to be as fully informed as possible, which is why we held a series of roundtable discussions and meetings with Twitter, Facebook, Liberty and other stakeholders, police and regulators, victim groups, academics, journalists and bloggers, lawyers and sports organisations ahead of drafting them. I would now encourage everyone with an interest in this matter to give us their views by responding to the public consultation.

Initial assessment

As part of their initial assessment, prosecutors are now required to distinguish between:

  1. Communications which may constitute credible threats of violence
     
  2. Communications which may constitute harassment or stalking
     
  3. Communications which may amount to a breach of a court order
     
  4. Communications which do not fall into any of the above categories and fall to be considered separately i.e. those which may be considered grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false.

Those offences falling within the first three categories should, in general, be prosecuted robustly under the relevant legislation, for example the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), where the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors is satisfied.

Cases which fall within the final category will be subject to a high threshold and in many cases a prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest.

The high threshold

Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 engage Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, therefore prosecutors are reminded that they must be interpreted consistently with the free speech principles in Article 10.

Prosecutors are also reminded that what is prohibited under section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 is the sending of a communication that is grossly offensive. They should only proceed with cases involving such an offence where they are satisfied that the communication in question is more than:

  • Offensive, shocking or disturbing; or
     
  • Satirical, iconoclastic or rude comment; or
     
  • The expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it.

The public interest

In line with the free speech principles in Article 10, no prosecution should be brought unless it can be shown on its own facts and merits to be both necessary and proportionate.

A prosecution is unlikely to be both necessary and proportionate where:

  • a) The suspect has swiftly taken action to remove the communication or expressed genuine remorse;
     
  • b) Swift and effective action has been taken by others, for example service providers, to remove the communication in question or otherwise block access to it;
     
  • c) The communication was not intended for a wide audience, nor was that the obvious consequence of sending the communication; particularly where the intended audience did not include the victim or target of the communication in question; or
     
  • d) The content of the communication did not obviously go beyond what could conceivably be tolerable or acceptable in an open and diverse society which upholds and respects freedom of expression.

The age and maturity of suspect should be given significant weight, particularly if they are under the age of 18. Children may not appreciate the potential harm and seriousness of their communications and as such prosecutions of children are rarely likely to be in the public interest.

 

 

Update: 4908 Facebook and Twitter Postings were reported to Police in 2011...

'By using offence as the trigger for prosecution, you are putting the power of censorship into the hands of people who may chose to be offended for political gain'


Link Here 28th December 2012
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

29 police forces have revealed statistics about crimes involving Facebook and Twitter in a Freedom of Information request.

In 2008, a total of 556 complaints were made to police about social media postings on these 2 site. This had increased to 4,908 reports last year.

The figures also show 653 people were charged for social networking crime in 2011.

Greater Manchester Police charged the highest number of people, at 115.

Lancashire Police received reports of six threats of murder and there were numerous reports of sexual offences and fraud. But presumably the large part were claims of insult, offence or political incorrectness.

Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said:

These figures show just how badly some police forces had lost all proportion when dealing with social media.

So many arrests was clearly undermining freedom of speech and while the new guidance should reduce the problem, hundreds of people now have criminal records for the rest of their lives when it is far from clear they should do.

The law around speech crimes is still in need of a total overhaul as the legislation that led to some of the more absurd prosecutions remains in place.

Chief Constable Andy Trotter, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on communications, said forces must prioritise crimes which cause genuine harm, rather than attempting to curb freedom of expression.

Director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer QC announced the new guidelines on how people who post offensive messages on Facebook and Twitter should be dealt with. Hopefully reducing the number of people prosecuted for trivia.

Robert Sharp, campaign manager for English PEN, which lobbies on free speech and art internationally, said the prosecutions for hate online had been:

All young men between the ages of 18 and 22, they are all from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the things that they have been prosecuted for have been immature and inarticulate. There's almost a criminalisation of adolescence, and of poor literacy, that's one issue that seems to have emerged.

The communications laws being used are for grossly offensive messages. Offence as the trigger for prosecution is still a big problem. The case that is the most important is that of Azhar Ahmed, he is the only case of an ethnic minority. He posted something silly and illiterate about how soldiers were going to hell. He was prosecuted because far-right activists made a co-ordinated campaign to have him arrested.

So by using offence as the trigger for prosecution, you are putting the power of censorship into the hands of people who may chose to be offended for political gain. That's a big deal for censorship.

 

 

Offsite Article: Banged up for banging on?...


Link Here 19th January 2013
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
The arrest of an EDL leader for ranting against Islam on Facebook should worry anyone interested in freedom.

See article from spiked-online.com

 

 

Update: Chilling Effects...

Keir Starmer admits that the current police enthusiasm for prosecuting internet insults having a chilling effect on free speech


Link Here 5th February 2013
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said too many investigations into comments on networks such as Twitter would have a chilling effect on free speech:

I think that if there are too many investigations and too many cases coming to court then that can have a chilling effect on free speech.

This is about trying to get the balance right, making sure time and resources are spent on cases that really do need to go to court, and not spent on cases which people might think really would be better dealt with by a swift apology and removal of the offending tweet.

There is a lot of stuff out there that is highly offensive that is put out on a spontaneous basis that is quite often taken down pretty quickly and the view is that those sort of remarks don't necessarily need to be prosecuted.

This is not a get-out-of-jail card but it is highly relevant. Stuff does go up on a Friday and Saturday night and come down the next morning. If that is the case a lot of people will say: 'That shouldn't have happened, the person has accepted it, but really you don't need a criminal prosecution.' It is a relevant factor.

Starmer stressed that people who wrote libellous tweets, or messages that broke court orders or were threatening, would still face prosecution.

 

 

Offsite Article: On Joke Trials...


Link Here 5th March 2013
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter
The Director of Public Prosecutions talks to Index about Twitter, Facebook and diminishing free speech

See article from indexoncensorship.org

 

 

 

Update: Mass Arrests...

Clamouring to criminalise internet insults


Link Here 31st July 2013
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter