Social Media And Internet Regulation Essay

2115 words - 8 pages

Trolling is the new title that has been given to harassment that takes place on the Internet. A common example of trolling would be sending provocative messages via a communications platform for the pure entertainment of the sender, which then has a harmful effect on the recipient. There are different types of trolling; messages sent to harm others for the sender’s gratification are called ‘flame trolls’, and those to entertain others for their gratification have been given the title ‘kudos trolls’ (Bishop 2012a, 2012b). Where these actions have the resource to legal remedies they are called ‘electronic message faults’ and where the message fails to constitute an offence ‘electronic message freedoms’, and there is quite rightly nothing to prevent those from expressing free speech online.

Recently there has been widespread controversy on whether the Internet should be left to its own methods of self-regulation or whether an authoritative body should be put in place to protect Internet users. Statistics show that an increase in internet trolling and cyberbullying correlates with the increased interest in social networking and social media such as facebook and twitter. There has been a change in the way legislation has been used as a result of the increase in social media; the Malicious Communications Act 1988 has seen a sudden increase in usage since the invention of Facebook, which is being used to prosecute numerous individuals for eighteen weeks imprisonment when found guilty of the offence trolling (Bishop 2012b). The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 introduced a provision which has made electronic documents that have been interfered with through wrongful use of communications systems admissible as evidence in court. This was later repealed by the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. The Interception of Communications Act 1985 was passed to allow for the interception of messages sent via an electronic communications network. The aim of this legislation was to resolve problems in gathering evidence for electronic message faults. It was similar to the more encompassing Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which repealed and replaced a lot of it.

Over the years there has been a minimised application of mens rea within internet offences which has resulted in an increase in the number of convictions. Strict liability is frequently used for offences under the Public Order act 1986, where it is sufficient to prove a fault where the respondent posted the electronic message. Atkins v DPP [1989] Crim. L.R. 581 found that under s. 4 of the Public Order Act a person had to receive a message from the sender or someone acting on their behalf, and being retold the message did not fall under the ambit of the act. There have been problems with the Act when applying the relevant law to the offence of flame trolling as it remains ambiguous whether the referral to a person outside a dwelling that must receive the message includes...

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