The Crown Prosecution Service have updated their guidelines for when someone should be prosecuted for something posted to social media. I spoke to Kieran Corcoran of Heat Street about how the UK laws governing social media really need to be updated:
Robert Sharp, a spokesman for free speech campaigners English PEN, also commented, telling us: “Free speech must always include the right to offend.
“The law already bans abusive, harassing or threatening messages, which is surely adequate to stop the worst social media trolls.
“The words ‘grossly offensive’ are highly subjective and introduce ambiguity into the the law. This in turn chills free speech.
“Parliament should legislate to remove these words from the Communications Act, just as it removed similar wording from the Public Order Act in 2014.
“Other countries look to the UK on free speech issues – criminalising causing offence sets a poor international example.”
The CPS has tried to head off criticism of its new laws by advising prosecutors to exercise “considerable caution” in their decision-making to avoid “a chilling effect on free speech”.
The Public Order Act amendment I mentioned was a tweak to section 5. See the Reform Section 5 website for more details.