Social media and criminal offences - Communications Committee Contents

Social media and criminal offences



"hope your crying and now you should be why cannot you even produce for your country your just a diver anyway a over hyped prick"

"Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"

"Go suck muamba's dead black dick then you aids ridden twat", "you are a silly cunt … your mothers a wog and your dad is a rapist! Bonjour you scruffy northern cunt!"

"UnBonJuif est un juif mort xd kc"

"Fuck off and die you worthless piece of crap", "go kill yourself"; "I will find you", "rape her nice ass"


Background to this inquiry

1.  Which of the above statements are criminal and which are merely offensive? Which deserve punishment by the state; which need access only to a private remedy; which require no remedy because we value freedom of expression more than preventing offence?

2.  The House appointed this Committee on 12 June, to consider the media and the creative industries. We are interested in how the development of media affects people's behaviour and how the law and public policy need to respond. In that context we set out to explore the social media and criminal offences.

3.  We wished to operate at some speed, because this is an issue of current concern, and we were grateful to be able to hear at short notice from:

(a)  The Director of Public Prosecutions;

(b)  The Chief Constable of Essex, the Association of Chief Police Officers' coordinator for the digital intelligence and investigation environment;

(c)  Policy Director, UK, Middle East and Africa, Facebook, an online social networking service;

(d)  Director, Public Policy, EMEA, Twitter, an online social networking and microblogging service (on which users' individual publications, "tweets", are limited to 140 characters each);

(e)  Legal Officer, Article 19, a freedom of expression organisation; and

(f)  John Cooper QC of 25 Bedford Row.[1]

We have published the transcript of oral evidence which, in itself, forms a valuable resource for those interested in this subject.

4.  Our principal objectives in this report are to offer the House some information about an important area of public policy and to stimulate discussion. We have also offered some opinion, but that opinion is tentative because, in the time available, we have not considered the subject as broadly or in as much depth as it merits. Our inquiry has raised a number of further questions, some relatively specific, others which go to the fundamental dilemmas of the internet.

5.  Our overall conclusion is that the criminal law in this area, almost entirely enacted before the invention of social media, is generally appropriate for the prosecution of offences committed using the social media.

6.  We make this report for the information of the House and we do not expect a formal response from the Government.

1   We explicitly thank the Recorder of Manchester for releasing Mr Cooper from court for the purpose. Back

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