Be Careful Who You Troll in the UK


Twitter might still be struggling with how to combat trolls, but in the UK, authorites have added new offenses to the list of online behaviors that could land you in hot water with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Released during Hate Crime Awareness Week in the UK, the rules help attorneys effectively bring legal action against social media harassers. Crimes like "virtual mobbing," or encouraging others to participate in online harassment campaigns (ahem), and creating derogatory hashtags meant to humiliate people will be prosecuted just as if the offenses occurred offline.

"Social media can be used to educate, entertain, and enlighten, but there are also people who use it to bully, intimidate, and harass," Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said in a statement. "Ignorance is not a defense and perceived anonymity is not an escape. Those who commit these acts, or encourage others to do the same, can and will be prosecuted."

CPS, the public agency for criminal prosecutions in England and Wales, also included sections on violence against women and girls, hate crimes, and vulnerable victims.

Also on the list of offenses is "baiting"—the act of humiliating a person online by labelling them as sexually promiscuous or posting edited images of people on social networks; and it covers sexting as it pertains to images taken of children under 18.

"This month marks the 30th anniversary of the CPS and this latest guidance shows how much the nature of our prosecutions have changed in that time," Saunders said. "We are constantly working to ensure that our guidance stays relevant to modern crime and consultations are a crucial part of that process."

Last year, the CPS completed more hate crime prosecutions than ever before, according to the latest report.

"We have undertaken considerable steps to improve our prosecution of hate crime and we are committed to sustaining these efforts," Saunders said.

Today also marks the launch of CPS Public Policy Statements on Hate Crime, focused on disabled people, as well as racial and religious, homophobic, and transphobic crimes.

London officials in August were awarded up to £1.7 million ($2.1 million) to develop and implement an "online hate crime hub," where police can clamp down on online hate and find ways to thwart online abusers.

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