Online harassment and virtual bullying on social media could result in criminal convictions under new guidelines announced this week by England’s top prosecutor.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users could be prosecuted for a wide range of offences, including creating derogatory hashtags and posting doctored photographs to humiliate someone.
The crackdown on social media hate crime was announced by Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions.
“Social media can be used to educate, entertain and enlighten — but there are also people who use it to bully, intimidate and harass,” said Mrs Saunders.
“Ignorance is not a defence and perceived anonymity is not an escape. Those who commit these acts or encourage others to do the same can and will be prosecuted.”
Offences include virtual mobbing – the practice of encouraging people to take part in online harassment campaigns – and “doxxing”, which involves putting someone’s personal details online.
The new guidance also highlights offences which specifically target women, such as “baiting”, described as humiliating a woman or girl online by labelling them as promiscuous or posting altered images of them.
The issue of online harassment is of particular concern among young people. According to figures release by the Department of Education last November, while bullying and violent behaviour has fallen in schools in England over the past decade, cyber bullying is an increasing problem, with more than one in ten pupils affected.
Under 18s sending personal images to each other, known as “sexting”, is now less likely to result in prosecution unless part of exploitation, bullying or grooming.
The guidance was released yesterday to coincide with the start of Hate Crime Awareness Week.
How can our Criminal Law Solicitors help?
If you need advice on whether an offence has been committed against you or if the police are involved in investigating your own social media activity, then get in touch.
Whether you need us to defend an allegation wrongly made, or would like to find out more about the rules on online harassment, our criminal law lawyers can help.
To find out more, contact us on 01473 211121 or at [email protected]