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Scottish Crown Office Announce Social Media Legislation

Freedom of Tweets

Scotland’s prosecution service - The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) - has recently published its official guidelines concerning social media use. The announcement aims to clarify the lines where freedom of speech conflicts with rulings on abusive language, behaviour and threats.

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland attempted to simplify the new policy, stating:
“If it would be illegal to say it on the street, it is illegal to say it online.”

Statements and images classified as mildly offensive humour or satire will be exempt from the ruling, as these are considered by COPFS to be an important part of democratic debate.

The exact guidelines state prosecution will be considered if the communications:
  •          specifically target an individual or group and are considered to be hate crime, domestic abuse, or stalking
  •          constitute credible threats of violence to the person, damage to property or to incite public disorder
  •          may amount to a breach of a court order or contravene legislation making it a criminal offence to release or publish information relating to proceedings
  •          do not fall into the above categories but are nonetheless considered to be grossly offensive, indecent or obscene or involve the communication of false information about an individual or group which results in adverse consequences

The final point carries some ambiguity, as ‘grossly offensive’ has no set definition and is dependent on the recipient’s sensibilities. When asked to clarify the Lord Advocate responded:
 "The guidance sets out that it would not include, for example, humour, satirical comment, which is part of the democratic debate, so there's guidance to prosecutors as to what's not included. It doesn't include offensive comment because we recognise that, in a democratic society, with use of social media you can have offensive comment which wouldn't be criminal but it's really the category above the high bar grossly offensive which has a significant effect on the recipient of the comment.”

Internet ‘trolling’ has been considered an issue for years, forcing many countries to take a tougher stance. Ever since sites like YouTube and Twitter launched, their comments sections and posts have been full of hateful or abusive statements. The COPFS is hoping the new guidelines will help clean this up and make social media a friendlier and safer outlet.

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. Currently working part time as a content writer, he hopes to one day drop that 'aspiring' prefix. Follow him @SamAtSMF

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Scottish Crown Office Announce Social Media Legislation Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, December 23, 2014 Rating: 5
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