11th December 2013
Social Media and the Law Infographic
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“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.” said Sophie Murray, Senior Associate and in-house Barrister with Cartwright King's team of cyber crime solicitors.
Posting status updates, messages or tweets which are offensive, rude, or designed to provoke a reaction can lead to sentences varying from six month in prison for cases which go through to the Magistrates Court, to ten years for serious cases where there have been threats to kill.
On the 20th August 2009, an eighteen year old female became the first person in Britain to be jailed for bullying on a social networking site. The offender was sentenced to 91 days (three months) in a young offenders institute for posting death threats on Facebook. During her trial, the offender claimed to have posted the threats late at night whilst intoxicated. However, internet records unveiled that the comments were written in the afternoon on the 12th of July, and were kept publicly visible for a period of 24 hours.
In fact, you only need to send a total of two offensive messages for it to be considered harassment. This means that a heat of the moment tweet, or angry Facebook message could land you in hot water.
Take, for example the high profile case of a male who, in a moment of frustration during heavy delays at the airport, turned to twitter to voice his anger. Shortly after posting the message:
“Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s**t together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!” he was arrested by the police under the Criminal Law Act 1977. He was later released, but this is a prime example of how an errant thought voiced publicly could cause trouble.
Sophie Murray suggests that prior to sending emotionally charged messages, you should;
“Stop for a while before you post something and think seriously about the implications of what you plan to say.”