21st August 2013
Barrister’s Top Tips for staying out of trouble on Social Media
There have been several high profile cases recently which have led to prison sentences for internet trolls and cyber bullies.
Such cases serve to provide a very clear reminder about the serious repercussions of posting offensive or bullying messages warns Sophie Murray, a senior associate and in house barrister at leading criminal defence firm Cartwright King solicitors.
Posting messages or tweets which are offensive, rude or designed to provoke a reaction can lead to prosecutions under various pieces of legislation with the maximum sentences varying from 6 months in prison for cases that go through the magistrates court through to a maximum of 10 years in prison for the most serious cases where there has been threats to kill.
Whilst it is unlikely that anything but the most serious of cases are prosecuted, there is an inherent danger of posting messages on social media such as Facebook and Twitter when angry or intoxicated. Things said in the heat of the moment are recorded for all to see and people may well live to regret what they have posted. And when you consider that a course of conduct amounts to ‘harassment’ when it has happened on at least two occasions, you can see just how easy it is to commit such an offence.
The Communications Act 2003 Section 127, covers the sending of improper messages or a message that is grossly offensive or is of an indecent, obscene or menacing character. It can be used for indecent phone calls and emails too. The Section also targets false messages and persistent misuse intended to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety.
It is particularly important to remember all this in the event of a break down in a relationship. At such times emotions are running high and exes and family members can wade into the fray when and before you know where you are the break down is all over Facebook or Twitter. Care needs to be taken because abusive messages could be the subject of criminal charges.
“These days social media forms part of our everyday lives and using it to relay our emotions, particularly when intoxicated, could result in very serious consequences.”
“My advice would be to stop for a while before you post something and think seriously about the implications of what you plan to say.”