Under laws currently on the books that predate the internet, UK residents can go to jail if they post slanderous, offensive things to Twitter. In other words, trolling could get you time there, and law enforcement officials are increasingly using antiquated defamation laws to lock people up. According to the Telegraph, “18 months ago there were no criminal prosecutions for offensive internet comments, there have now been between 50 and 60 and in future there could be thousands.”
But Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, is now giving people an out: say that you were wasted whenever you posted the offending material, and deleted it once you’ve sobered up.
Reports the Telegraph:
Mr Starmer said: “In most cases once you put the safeguards in place then a prosecution is unlikely to be the appropriate response. It makes it less likely that these cases will be prosecuted.
“Prosecution should be proportionate. In a number of cases that we’ve seen it’s clear that either once challenged or once sober the individual takes down offensive material very quickly and expresses genuine remorse.
“I hope through our positive dialogue with Facebook and Twitter that they might be able to support the guidelines and that therefore they might think it appropriate to take swift action.”
Under the new guidelines, prosecutors must demonstrate that messages on the internet are “grossly offensive”, that prosecution in the public interest and that they have caused the victim “distress or anxiety”.
Prosecution is likely to be unnecessary if the offending message is removed, by either the individual or service provider, and if it was not intended for a wider audience.
To recap: Drunk Twitter users are unlikely to face criminal prosecution in the UK as long as they delete bad tweets when sober. If only other dumb things people do when drunk could also be so easily swept under the rug.
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