It seems that issues surrounding online abuse are never far from the front page at the moment. From online abuse examples such as trolling, trolling convictions, new laws, revenge porn, celebrity photo hacking and Gamergate to solutions such as Right to be Forgotten (RTBF) and the recent Google Spain decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), there is always a new story. These are all important issues.
Some of the nuances stem from the damage and harm that can arise for individuals. Naturally attention focuses on aspects of the solution such as existing rights like privacy, data, protection, threats, hacking, and reformulations or clarification of existing rights such as the reliance of the RTBF on existing data protection laws.
New laws are also contemplated. One of these is the significant update to the EU data protection legal regime which is progressing currently, and which also includes the RTBF. It has also been announced by UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling that the sentence for those convicted of online trolling will be increased under the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to up to two years in prison. Already, there are a growing number of examples of convictions, most recently a conviction involving 18 weeks imprisonment for trolling Stella Creasy MP on Twitter. Current prosecutions occur under the Malicious Communications Act which is capped at six months’ imprisonment.
The responses to online abuse might also consider alternative or additional options. There are already legal precedents where individuals both upon charge and upon conviction have been banned from accessing certain websites, contacting certain persons (individuals e.g. victims, alleged victims)(and categories of individuals e.g. children, persons on dating websites, etc).
Certain websites sometimes also enforce their terms and conditions to ban individuals. In other instances, websites have filtered out blacklists of individuals or enforced court orders in relation to particular individuals. Just as courts and politicians sometimes have to adapt and be creative, so should websites in terms of seeking to deal with and minimise the problems which arise.
Internet Safety is in Everyone’s Interest
As we come to grips with understanding the scale of certain problem issues, legal-policymakers and responsible websites will all have to engage positively in keeping the internet safe for everyone. It is in everyone’s interest, as policy-makers, organisations and users.
Some of these issues are compared across the US, EU and over thirty countries worldwide in the forthcoming Bloomsbury Professional book, International Handbook of World Social Media Laws, edited by Paul Lambert.