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The rise of the internet – and social media – has seen a dramatic increase in online “trolls”. Anyone who is familiar with social media platforms will be aware that “trolling” is rife. In 2015, 25% of 13-18 year olds were victims of online abuse and five internet trolls are now convicted every day.
At the moment, there are no specific laws pertaining to the use of the internet/social media, however the UK is set to introduce the very first online safety laws later this year.
Until then, all possible offences currently lie under either section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and/or section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 and then, depending on the nature of the offence, are categorised and prosecuted under the applicable laws broken.
Guidelines issued by the Crown Prosecution Service require the passing of a “high threshold” before the police will intervene in matters regarding social media. This means that an individual simply saying some unkind things online doesn’t currently constitute an offence and the police will not be able to take action. In these instances, we recommend you follow the advice given earlier (see “What can I do to help combat trolls?”).
However, if you have received a credible threat (one that you believe may be acted upon), or are the target of a “campaign of harassment”, you should certainly report this to the police as soon as possible – taking screenshots of the comments in case they are deleted.
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