The UK is clamping down on Internet trolls and their toxic online behavior. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has published guidelines that could result in severe punishments for offensive hashtags, doxing, revenge porn, and other similar activities.
“Virtual mobbing,” where someone incites people to harass others online, could now see the perpetrator charged under the Serious Crime Act. Breitbart’s tech editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, was permanently banned from Twitter in July for allegedly inciting his followers to abuse Ghostbuster’s actress Leslie Jones.
Anyone who engages in Doxing - the act of publicly posting a person’s information, such as their bank details and home address – will also face tougher penalties. As will those who create “derogatory” hashtags as a way of humiliating people.
The guidelines also target anyone who sets up websites or fake social media accounts in someone else’s name with the intention of demeaning people.
Misogynistic hate crimes, such as publicly labeling woman and girls as sexually promiscuous or doctoring photos as a way of humiliating them, could result in prosecution for the offender.
Revenge Porn, which involves someone posting explicit images of former partners to embarrass them, is also mentioned. It has been illegal in the UK since April 2015, and now “anyone who re-tweets or forwards without consent, a private sexual photograph or film, if the purpose […] was to cause distress to the individual depicted,” can be charged under the same offense.
"The internet's not an anonymous place where people can post without any consequences," said Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions at the CPS. "People should think about their own conduct."
"If you are grossly abusive to people, if you are bullying or harassing people online, then we will prosecute in the same way as if you did it offline," she added.
The BBC reports that the CPS will only pursue those who create “grossly offensive” posts and that prosecutors won’t be able to “stifle free speech.” The guidelines are subject to public consultation for 13 weeks.