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Social media and the criminal law

Colin Gibson


United Kingdom

Social media and the criminal law

This has been the year in which the criminal law has tried to get to grips with social media.  There have been a flurry of prosecutions of individuals who have posted abhorrent messages on social media websites.  These prosecutions represent a sea-change in approach by the Crown Prosecution Service.  It is now willing - and indeed eager - to take strong action against the offenders.
A recent comment by the Director of Public Prosecutions has also sent the world of social media into a tailspin.  In an exchange during a talk at the London School of Economics the DPP made the following remark:

Q: Is it an offence to retweet something which  is grossly offensive?
DPP: You retweet, you commit an offence under the Act.

It appears that the DPP will have little sympathy to those who retweet a vile message, even if only to draw attention to its grossly offensive nature and/or to criticise its content. The DPP has promised to consult on the issue of how the criminal law ought to be applied to social media, following which he intends to publish guidelines to help prosecutors decide which sort of messages ought to be considered as criminal.
In light of these developments, Rhys Griffiths, a Partner and a member of the Defamation Group at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, has looked at how the criminal law applies to social media.  A link to that article can be found here. If you would like to discuss this issue in more detail then please do not hesitate to contact Rhys.

Rhys Griffiths, partner in the Defamation Group at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP.

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