05 Feb 2021

Why the police must have little tolerance towards online trolls

Yesterday I gave an interview to BBC Scotland where I explained why the government must take a tougher approach and prosecute people who commit harassment on social media.

This was after reports by NHS nurses of the spill of the harassment against them to offline, with nurses being abused on the street.

The advice given by police to victims of harassment on the internet is to ignore their harassers or, in other words, develop a thicker skin. The reality is that nearly always, harassers tend to escalate their behaviour if they are ignored by their victim, and they rarely just go away.

If we focus on the victim, the conclusion must be that online harassment must be treated by the police exactly the same as offline harassment because the impact on the victim is often stronger when they are abused on the internet.

Free speech is only permitted subject to what is permitted by law, and if the law prohibits harassment, then freedom of speech must give place accordingly.

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    In the discussion about social media platforms as “publishers” of posts by users, it is worth remembering that this is not new law. See for example this case about Google reviews. https://www.smh.com.au/national/google-has-early-win-in-fighting-contempt-charge-over-defamatory-reviews-20190712-p526kc.html

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