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Internet trolls in Britain could face up to two years jail under proposed legislation

By Himanshu Arora ยท 53 replies
Oct 20, 2014
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  1. In the wake of a number of high-profile cases of abusive and threatening behavior on online social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and others, the British government has proposed a new legislation, which if enacted, would see Internet trolls facing some...

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  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,478   +3,036

    I think we need to amend our definition of democracy with relation to freedom of speech where anonymity is concerned, because it's a new thing in the society, one that gets twisted in our modern interpretation, inciting irresponsible defamation and similar antisocial acts.

    The change would make it easier and less controversial to legislate for it.

    From our definition of Freedom of Speech:
    Anonymity isn't anywhere to be found in any those terms, and that's the problem. It needs to be provisioned for.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2014
  3. Suggesting someone should be tossed in jail for up to two years for nasty remarks on social media is insane. This generation has become so thin skinned and emotionally fragile, I'm surprised that Kohls hasn't started selling safety bubbles along side their outerwear.
    SirChocula, Burty117 and amstech like this.
  4. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,478   +3,036

    That's the thing. This type of action always upsets people and uproars controversy because of the lack of fundamental principles on which such actions can be based. And it will continue to be that way until someone decisive steps in and formulates such principles.
  5. Pretty soon even yo mamma jokes will get banned...and people go to jail
  6. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 3,160   +1,413

    Yes and no... ask the victim of a home theft what the worst part is. It's not the value of the crap they lost that insurance will cover, it's the feeling that someone was in their home. they feel their safety was violated and it keeps them awake at night. The same thing can happen with online bullying. A concentrated effort to destroy someone's life via threats, bullying, and online harassment can be very effective. In some cases it's even led to suicide, and it's very hard to prosecute the offenders because 'being a jerk' isn't against the law.

    I think there should be a difference between some anonymous person on Twitter compared to half your school on your facebook.

    It's also important to tell the difference between ' you're wrong and you're an id!ot' and a rape and/or death threat. Ever read some of those threats? They can make a normal adult half sick to their stomach. To a naive teenager they must be pretty scary.
  7. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,478   +3,036

    Even worse, there are known cases of teenage suicides caused by online bullying.
  8. amstech

    amstech IT Overlord Posts: 2,236   +1,436

    The world isn't some fairy tale with a happy ending where everyone is a winner and no one gets hurt.
    We allow WAY to many weak, lazy and soft people to live/get away with things.
    This may sound harsh but those people deserved to die IMO.

    Todays youth grow up with a very sugercoated/protected outlook. They are safeguarded from reality and its causing massive damage to society. Life is a nasty process as this world is mean, treacherous and unforgiving.
    Instead of trying to hide/protect them we need to prepare them for reality. Children need to learn at a young age to stick up for themselves, by themselves, its one of the most important/ critical life lessons.
    Bullying is a 100% natural process that takes place and WILL TAKE PLACE in EVERY generation. Its a 100% natural process of living beings to separate the bold and strong from the weak and fragile. It's been around since the beginning of time and will be around long after were gone.
    Call it youthfill postioning, postering, bullying, whatever. It's as natural as taking a sh!t.
    Of all the "bullying" cases I hear about, I would say about 5-10% (or less) of them are real cases.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2014
  9. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 3,160   +1,413

    Death threats scare them, so they deserve to die? You're right, that does sound harsh. And it sounds like you're assuming people handle the same things the same way. For some, abuse can be shaken off... for others, its the last straw. It's the consequence that defines the severity of the crime. Case in point... drunk driving. Two people, both drunk can drive down the same street, the same speed, with the same BAC, but one may only get a ticket, while the other may spend a life in jail if they hit a pedestrian. Same crime, different results and that means different consequences.

    Of course bullying is natural, and it does make people stronger. (I learned from it when I was in high school) But in the extreme cases where it goes too far and someone is permanently hurt or killed, shouldn't there at least be the possibility of prosecution for the offender? Or do you think all bullies should get a pass no matter the severity, no matter the effect on the victim?

    Cancer is as natural as taking a sh!t too... doesn't mean we're not looking for a cure.
  10. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,493   +1,295

    I was a teenager only 2-3 years ago, when I left school etc... and I have to agree with this, the amount of girls in my year that had fights "because she said this on facebook"... Blah blah blah was pathetic.

    Don't get me wrong, social media exacerbates real life bullying, but things like facebook you can block people, you can set it so you can only see family and friends. Bullying in real life is much harder.

    Yeah, a few of those are quite tragic, one of them though (I can't link it as I'm at work) was a girl who was 13-14 and she got pregnant after sleeping with a couple of guys at her school and half the school bullied her until she was so depressed she killed herself.

    1. Her parents didn't seem to get mentioned at all (did they even get involved?).
    2. The school appeared to have done nothing about the real life bullying.
    3. She didn't block any of the hate on social media sites like Facebook. She didn't hit the report button on some of the posts.

    I personally think teenagers just need better guidance on how to deal with such situations. Don't get me wrong internet trolls are annoying but come on, you can just block and delete most things on the internet in one way or another. It's hard to pin "Trolls" on people committing suicide.
    psycros likes this.
  11. I've been following the issue very closely over the past six months, so I'm well aware of the content in question, as well as how the media has covered it. Even so, that in itself is not a sound basis for locking someone behind bars. There is a monumental gap between having your personal space violated and being psychologically undermined on the Internet. The former represents a real threat whereas the latter quite literally originates from an inability to discern bullshit from fact. Nobody should go to jail because Mrs. Smith doesn't know how to use the block feature.

    Those kids should have never been surfing the web unsupervised to begin with. Nobody hands the keys to a Ferrari to a 12 year old, why would a responsible parent allow their kid unfiltered access to a technology capable reaping the same doom?
    Burty117 and psycros like this.
  12. The issue here is that the law criminalizes free speech because another party responds adversely to it. A progressive system of punishment for crimes of badspeak is fundamentally different from DUI. When a person commits DUI, they are consciously putting themselves in a position to possibly do physical harm to others. This means that killing a pedestrian while under the influence warrants a severe punishment. However, if the collision is deemed to be the fault of the pedestrian, the drunk driver is off the hook.

    The criminalization of abusive trolling approaches both of these matters differently. First of all, it is subjective in nature. One cannot interpret BAC; it is what it is. Any range of negative comments can be viewed as abusive, however. Secondly, trolls, no matter how vile, are not in a position to do actual harm to their "victims." Whereas everyone knows a car is lethal at speed, the psychological fortitude (or lack thereof) of an individual on the Internet is unknown. Consequently, any physical harm that befalls a trolling "victim" is the victim's own conscious choice. Anti-trolling laws place the fault of this choice on the troll.

    If we criminalize the publishing of comments that may harm someone, the the statement "I don't like you" can be simultaneously criminal and legal simply because people will respond different to it: For person A, it's meaningless, because they don't care. For person B, it was just enough to push them over the edge, right into a lethal dose of Lexapro. Therefore, free speech...or jail...it just depends.

    The law is garbage.

    Should something be done to combat abusive Internet trolling? Absolutely. But writing up arbitrary, poorly thought-out laws to combat the phenomenon is a solution worse than the problem itself.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2014
    Burty117 and psycros like this.
  13. I think this is a great law and should allow people to have a better experience while they are online

    countless teenagers have committed suicide due to trolling, I mean look at robin william's daughter, he dies and suddenly thousands of people are filling up her twitter with hateful messages. Under no circumstance should that be allowed, people should act online the way they are expected to act in person, no exceptions

    we are(well I hope and I know every country is working on) a civilized society, and as such we should act in a decent way online.
    as a religious individual I believe in "Do to others as you would have them do to you"

    and non religious people believe in the fact that we should work on advancing the race, not going back in time to where we were uncivilized.

    Am glad this law will soon be implemented in the UK, hopefully it will come to the US as well and other countries will follow.

    people should just raise their respectful opinion online, nobody should be allowed to make hurtful remarks that may negatively impact a persons psychological well being.
  14. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,766   +1,160

    The topic is pretty clear, there are two types of "nasty remarks" or as said "freedom of speech", the first one is where you actually make a point and you are free to speak whatever you want (Of course, always with respect to the other people), the next one is not very nice and comes with real life threats, this last one SHOULD NOT be tolerated, under any circumstance.

    If you want to complain about the government that's fine, he/she/they could be doing a bad *** job or from your point of view it's a terrible group of people, what you CAN NOT say is you are bombing their homes, raping their childs or will be burning them alive while you laugh maniacally.
  15. A real-life threat is fundamentally different from a run of the mill threat of violence on social media. With a real threat (which is properly criminalized, I will add), the following is true:

    (1.) The threat comes from a hostile individual.
    (2.) The the individual has the capacity to carry out the threat.
    (3.) The there is a clear intent to bring physical harm to the threatened party.
    (4.) Therefore, the threat is legitimate.

    This is different from abusive trolling, where the following is true:

    (1.) The threat comes from a hostile individual.
    (2.) The capacity of the individual to carry out the threat is unknown.
    (3.) There is a clear intent to troll the threatened party.
    (4.) Therefore, the threat is illusory.

    By merging the latter into the same domain as the former, the law is effectively criminalizing being a *******.
    Burty117 and psycros like this.
  16. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,766   +1,160

    So it's ok to threaten someone as long as it's not commited?

    How could you possibly know or categorize that? There shouldn't be any kind of threat, period.
  17. At what point did I say abusive Internet trolling was okay? I have said that it shouldn't be criminal, not that it shouldn't be punished through other means. Don't put words in my mouth.

    First of all, because the nature of the speech has already been defined by the proposed law and related discussion. You'll note that it specifically addresses nasty comments made on the Internet. Secondly, it is fairly easy to determine the difference between a troll threat and a real threat. If you can't discern between the two, you have no business being on the Internet to begin with.
    Burty117 and psycros like this.
  18. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,124   +1,617

    I don't find this any different than arresting someone who yells "FIRE" in a crowded theater when there is no fire. That's not free speech, that's being a jerk whose actions could result in serious harm (people stampeding the exit).

    As long as it's limited to specific bodily harm type threats, I'm OK with it.
  19. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,766   +1,160

    My point, again, there shouldn't be any threat on the internet, troll or not, period.
  20. Yelling fire in a crowded theater would be applicable to making face-to-face threats. Here, it is akin to texting fire to someone who didn't turn their phone off prior to the film previews.

    It isn't:

    Currently, offenders who subject their victims to sexually offensive, verbally abusive or threatening material on the internet can only be prosecuted in magistrates courts under the Malicious Communications Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of six months.

    But the planned changes will allow magistrates to pass on serious cases to the crown courts, where offenders would face a maximum sentence of 24 months.

    The law does not criminalize the publishing of credible threats online; it criminalizes mean and/or offensive comments.
    Burty117 and psycros like this.
  21. Therefore, you do not believe people should be allowed to freely express themselves on the Internet.

    Why didn't you just start with that?

    Edit: I am assuming by "threat" you mean threatening comments, as opposed to threats.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2014
    Burty117 and psycros like this.
  22. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,766   +1,160

    I can express my point perfectly fine without telling you that I'll burn down your house if you keep making stupid *** remarks like this one, freedom of speech has nothing to do here with the dumb points you are making, see? Small words, big differences.
  23. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,984   +2,287

    If you examine the psychology of the bully, I am certain that you will find that at least some bullies do so out of insecurity: their bullying allows them to feel superior. As I see it, the bully is psychologically disturbed. No one, in my opinion, should tolerate being bullied, or tolerate a bully's action on others.

    In this day and age, it is entirely possible to pay a few dollars and get very private information, including addresses, of anyone. Who is to say whether in the case of threats of physical violence that the person making the threats, via any means, will not look up such personal information and act on that information?

    Because it is impossible to tell whether an online threat will lead to a physical threat, an online threat is a form of terrorism because of this inability to tell whether the threat will lead to an actual physical attack. The individuals who are threatened will quite likely live in fear, and this fear will not be "shaken off" and "gotten over." I understand that people out there think that ignoring such threats will lead to a strengthening of the individual who ignores them, but at some level, that person will live in a state of terror, and this is why threats, in any medium, are terrorism.

    So, we as a society should tolerate bullies? I don't think so. Not when bullies are of questionable character. Even in the animal world, there have been cases of animals in a community ganging up on a bully and replacing that bully with a member of the community that does not bully.

    As I see it, society is going to have to learn to work to support each other. There is no room for bullies. Because someone does not like the opinions of another does not give them the right to make threats, in any medium, against those who hold different opinions. Someone does not like the opinions or views of another? Say so, but don't make threats of any nature. "I disagree" is all that need be said, and for any ***** to say that because the victim of their crime suffered no physical injuries that their attack on that person was OK is disturbed to say the least.

    Also, if you study psychological abuse, it can be considered in some ways worse that physical abuse. There are bullies that engage purely in psychological abuse. This does not make them in any way better than those bullies who only foment physical abuse. Abuse is abuse whether physical or not, and as such, abuse, in any form, should not be tolerated by individuals or society.

    I'm in favor of this law. As I see it, it should have been enacted years ago.
  24. First of all, if you found it necessary to express your displeasure with my comments in such a manner, there is no reason you should be jailed for it, simply because there is no real threat. People shouldn't be thrown in jail for lacking decency.

    Secondly, and more to my point, under the precedent set by the current law, sarcastic and demeaning comments like the one you published can be reasonably taken as abusive. If, for some reason, I were react to your displeasure with my comments thus far by taking my own life, you could be prosecuted by my family (if we were in the UK anyways), because being viewed as a "stupid" person with "dumb" ideas pushed me over the edge.

    Again, threats and abusive comments made online should be dealt with. But when the threats are clearly illegitimate, there is no justifiable reason to lock someone away. Likewise, the authorship and publishing of abusive, offensive, or otherwise mean comments does not justify taking away a portion of that person's life. While I think we can all agree that sending people death or rape threats does not constitute free speech, authoring and publishing opinions that may be subjectively deemed offensive or abusive falls very much under this category.
    Burty117 and psycros like this.
  25. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,952   +3,995

    Holy sh!t! Can I be extradited under this law? Has merely outwitting someone risen to the level of a crime? Will there be such a thing as "felony rudeness"? Stay tuned kids.
    psycros and davislane1 like this.

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