UK to review online trolling laws
Over the last nine months, the UK government has looked at various ways to make the internet safer for people across Britain. In October 2017, culture secretary Karen Bradley published an Internet Safety Green Paper, which discussed a voluntary levy on major social media companies to fund awareness and preventative activity against online trolls and in turn help users report threatening behaviour.
Today, the Prime Minister — supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport — announced a new independent review “to make the UK the safest place to be online.” It’ll seek to clarify whether current laws are effectively treating online and offline behaviour the same.
The Law Commission, which has previously considered introducing tougher prison sentences for whistleblowers, will lead the review, determining whether current legislation regarding “offensive online communications” are up to date with the wide range of apps, services and online tools available today.
The Internet Safety Green Paper is the first part of the Digital Charter, a new regulatory framework drawn up with help from charities and technology companies, that governs the way users and business behave online. As part of that work, the Law Commission will look into the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and Communications Act 2003 and identify what online words and actions can be deemed “grossly offensive” and whether certain definitions have been made obsolete by technology.
While all of this is going on, the government will seek to introduce a new social media code of practice that outlines what is expected from websites, social media platforms and other online services. This includes the development and enforcement of new community guidelines for platforms like Twitter and Facebook, the prevention of troll behaviour and misuse of social media platforms and guidance on how to help uses spot and report illegal content.