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Guidelines Clarify Offensive Posts On Social Media

social-media-policiesNew measures have been set which could see fewer social media users being charged in England and Wales for offensive content.

A set of guidelines has been set out by the Director of Public Prosecutions which states that people will only face trial if their comments on social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook go a step further than just being offensive.

The introduction of these measures hopes to form a division between the ‘trolls’ and abusers on one side, and those maintaining their freedom of speech on the other.


The guidance has been introduced so that many can avoid complications and a possible trial if they are truly apologetic for posting comments including those made whilst under the influence.

Prosecutions of people will only become a reality when messages published on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere contain genuine threats of violence, target an individual specifically, or breach a court order.
Those who choose to pass on other people’s messages that contain content against the wishes of the guidelines could also be found out and punished.

Users who engage in “grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false” statements in humour or due to drunken thoughts will more often than not be spared of being prosecuted.


Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions has said that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has previously dealt with over 50 cases which have related to possible criminal comments.

There was very little case law set by senior judges to decide which trials should proceed. The guidelines have now come into effect and will clarify which cases should be prosecuted and which would go ahead after stringent assessment to decide if it would be in the public interest to do so.

Mr Starmer has said that those who post “grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false” content may be unlikely to be punished as it would not be within the public interest to take them to court.

The Director of Public Prosecutions also said that: "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."

These markers of fairness come after a number of controversial cases have arisen. This year saw judges overturn the conviction of Paul Chambers when he previously tweeted that he would blow up Doncaster Airport due to his frustration at its closure because of snow.

Lord Chief Justice said that Mr Chambers shouldn’t have been convicted because the comment did not amount to a serious threat that created fear or apprehension.

What do you think about the new guidelines? Have they made the judgements fairly?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or via Twitter.
 

Daniel Barr

Follow us @SocialMediaF & @DanielAtSMF

www.socialmediafrontiers.com
Guidelines Clarify Offensive Posts On Social Media Reviewed by Dan Barr on Thursday, December 20, 2012 Rating: 5
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