Offensive tweeters may be spared from prosecution

But users could still be prosecuted for retweeting some messages, the director of public prosecutions has warned.

social media

Users of social networks could find themselves in court for retweeting or resending messages, according to new guidelines issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Messages that harass, threaten or break court orders will be "robustly" prosecuted, it has been claimed. That said, other messages, even those thought to be offensive, may not be prosecuted under these new guidelines.

"The first group will be prosecuted robustly whereas the second group will only be prosecuted if they cross a high threshold," said Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions.

"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."

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

But the DPP will not tell social networks how to edit or moderate comments. Instead, it will take into account how fast an offensive comment was taken down.

"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," said Starmer.

"I would now encourage everyone with an interest in this matter to give us their views by responding to the public consultation."

The guidelines follow a number of cases over the past two years involving social networks. Doncaster accountant Paul Chambers, who was found guilty of sending a 'menacing' tweet, later saw his conviction quashed. He said afterwards that he did not believe anyone would take his "silly joke" seriously.

Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, said the new distinction between credible threats and offence was "sorely needed".

"Victims tell us sustained and vindictive targeting on social media can leave long-lasting emotional and psychological scars so we warmly welcome clarification on how prosecutors will deal with online threats or harassment," said Khan.

Advertisement - Article continues below

"In particular we welcome the guideline which makes a prosecution more likely if a victim is specifically targeted and this has a significant impact on them."

Kahn said that his organisation would "watch how the interim guidelines are used with interest and will respond to them in detail during the consultation period."

Featured Resources

How inkjet can transform your business

Get more out of your business by investing in the right printing technology

Download now

Journey to a modern workplace with Office 365: which tools and when?

A guide to how Office 365 builds a modern workplace

Download now

Modernise and transform your sales organisation

Learn how a modernised sales process can drive your business

Download now

Your guide to managing cloud transformation risk

Realise the benefits. Mitigate the risks

Download now



How to use Twitter analytics: start sharing like the pros

21 Feb 2019

Most Popular

cloud computing

Google Cloud snaps up multi-cloud analytics platform for $2.6bn

13 Feb 2020

How to use Chromecast without Wi-Fi

5 Feb 2020
Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is a testament to Satya Nadella’s strategic nouse

14 Feb 2020
operating systems

How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

12 Feb 2020