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Prosecution of Tweeters

(56 Posts)
daphnedill Thu 14-Jul-16 19:41:38

This is related to a couple of other threads about online bullying and free speech.

The following prosecutions caught my eye on the BBC website:

For those who don't like links, they're about people who have been prosecuted for making cruel/threatening tweets.

I've been concerned for some time about the 'freedom' of the internet for people to be cruel and threatening, the rise in online bullying and some of the language which is used, sometimes making death threats.

Some people will claim that bullying can only be physical and face-to-face. I disagree and think people should be prosecuted.

Interested in other people's opinions.

Mumsy Thu 14-Jul-16 20:34:45

Fully agree with you daphnedill, I also think that the site owners should be taken to task for allowing the bullying to continue as well.

Welshwife Thu 14-Jul-16 20:48:17

I agree that it is bulling or defamation of character etc and should result in punishment of some kind.
The site owners do very little to stop this sort of thing - just suspend the accounts for a few days.

obieone Thu 14-Jul-16 20:54:19

I agree.

daphnedill Thu 14-Jul-16 21:00:07

In both cases in the links, the abusive posts were made on Twitter. In one case the tweeter was given a three year sentence with additional conditions and the other a one month suspended sentence.

Twitter has defended its right on occasions to release details of account holders.

Many years ago MSN shut down its chatrooms and Messenger, because they were out of control and being abused. I wonder if Twitter will go the same way, unless some way is found to control what's being written.

daphnedill Sat 16-Jul-16 00:29:07

Man arrested over Angela Eagle death threats. Good!

obieone Sat 16-Jul-16 14:33:39

I can't get around at least two things on this issue.

1. That it seems to take a celbrity/someone famous that it happens to, or someone in the news, for the police or law to take notice.
Surely a crime is a crime?

2. The national interest on this issue seems very low.
[The number of posts for example on this thread are minimal to say the least].

obieone Sat 16-Jul-16 14:34:33

And a cheeky one! Where does thatbags stand on this issue!

Anniebach Sat 16-Jul-16 22:42:34

Leanne Wood the Plaid leader had abusive messages, the chap was jailed ,think it was last week. Suppose there is so much bullying on Twitter there are not enough of police officers to deal with all the complaints. I don't bother with it, I read a few links which I receive by mail but these are from people in the public eye. I detest bullying and think it is dismissed to easily

absent Sun 17-Jul-16 06:38:44

It seems to me that if someone is making death threats – electronically or otherwise – he/she is committing a crime. Ditto threats of rape or other violence. Bullying is a slightly more complex area if it doesn't involve a physical threat or personal abuse. Accusations of bullying have certainly appeared on Gransnet simply because one or more posters have disagreed with the opinion of another or have pointed out that the "facts" in someone's post are inaccurate or, sometimes, outright lies.

thatbags Sun 17-Jul-16 07:57:49

Well said, absent.

Happening to say something, with no malicious intent, that someone happens to find offensive, is not bullying. Nor is not apologising for it. Neither is nagging someone to apologise for something they said. All that stuff is just tiresome and silly.

I agree with the OP that people who commit crimes should be prosecuted whether it's face to face or not. It's a fairly simple idea really. If you threaten to kill someone or threaten them with violence of any kind (physical or emotional), you are committing a crime. Full use of laws to deal with this sort of thing should, of course, be made.

One can say all that and still be in favour of freedom for all. Most people are not evil but there will always be some who are.

obieone Sun 17-Jul-16 08:24:39

I dont call that freedom of speech.

DaphneBroon Sun 17-Jul-16 08:29:58

Then how would you define freedom of speech?

Anya Sun 17-Jul-16 08:47:47

Of course bullying occurs on GN. Saying it doesn't is like a HT saying 'there's no bullying in my school' . Bullying exists everywhere.

The difference is that on GN you can simply switch threads, stay off for a few days or ignore the written word. After a while most people learn to ignore such people and that is the way to treat them. If someone persists in following you from thread to thread then alert GNHQ.

But on here we are discussing threats and that is an entirely different matter. To threaten death, physical harm or rape, or to incite others to do any of these is against the law and I'm pleased that at last this law is being enforced.

Gracesgran Sun 17-Jul-16 09:31:29

Bullying does exist in every walk of life as Anya says and certainly people should be prosecuted if they would be in braking a RL law.

So all Public Order Offences should apply, e.g., Incitement to Racial Hatred; Incitement to Religious Hatred; Harassment. This would also apply so using threatening, abusive words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress, these would all be prosecutable if it happened in the street so should be on-line.

What I think some people do not understand is that disagreeing with someone's point of view is not illegal. There is a feeling in a small proportion of the population (and among a small proportion of those on here too) that "I have not only a right to state my point of view but a right to have that point of view respected". No you don't! Yes you can put forward your views but others can hold a different point of view and expressing that is not bullying. If someone is disagreeing while not using threatening, abusive words (under the law) they are not bullying.

Gracesgran Sun 17-Jul-16 09:34:12

obieone you do not seem to believe that as well as having the right to express a view the counter of that is the right to be offended. One must go with the other as the very view expressed in the first place may offend some.

Gracesgran Sun 17-Jul-16 09:43:16

Either that obeione or you do think people should be able to "threaten to kill someone or threaten them with violence of any kind (physical or emotional)" which are at the level with would be breaking the law if it was person to person (as Bags described) and I don't think you meant that.

daphnedill Sun 17-Jul-16 10:33:02

As far as I know, 'bullying' isn't a criminal offence and is dealt with under various laws relating to equality, incitement and harrassment. Unless bullying fits into one of those categories, it's very difficult to secure a conviction and, even then, the burden of proof is high.

Having said that, I've never seen any real bullying on GN, because this is a moderated site and the owners have their own rules for the 'tone' they wish to set.

I'm more concerned about sites such as Twitter, Facebook, some blogs and the comments in some online newspapers. Local newspapers and neighbourhood sites can be particularly bad. A few years ago, a girl was deliberately targeted on a site which was set up for my area to encourage people to communicate with each other. The stuff which was published was really horrible. There were no death threats, but personal details were published and she was called all sorts of names. A group of bitchy girls was behind it, but I don't believe they were prosecuted. I think the site has been shut down now.

I agree with you, gracesgran, that disagreeing with somebody respectfully (however robustly) is not bullying.

sunseeker Sun 17-Jul-16 11:05:22

I am a strong believer in the right to free speech, however that right comes with a responsibility to behave in a way not to cause distress to another person, disagree yes, insult no. A threat to kill or physically harm someone is illegal. Bullying is harder to legislate for, something that one person would consider bullying would be shrugged off by someone else. As for bullying on GN, some discussions do get heated but that is because GN is made up of all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds and views and everyone is entitled to their point of view. If I were to post a view on something and several others then posted strong opposition to those views - that is not bullying.

Gracesgran Sun 17-Jul-16 11:47:15

I wonder if sites such as twitter could reduce some of the things which would break the law by saying they reserve the right to publish the name of the person should they break rules which are, in actual fact laws.

Mary Beard was attacked and threatened by a nasty poster who stopped as soon as another poster offered to tell Mary how to contact his mother! He was "outed" by the press and was very shammed faced.

daphnedill Sun 17-Jul-16 12:52:05

I think that's a good point, gracesgran. It seems that sometimes when abusive comments are made, a sort of mob rule takes over and other people pitch in. Good for the poster who defended Mary, but it doesn't happen that often.

I don't think individual comments are bullying (unless they're really vile), but if a poster tells somebody to back off, because they're being hurt, and the comments continue, I think it is bullying. The person making the comments knows that they're hurting somebody - it's like kicking somebody when they're down.

The law and the police can't possibly ever sort out all cases of harrassment, so I wonder if it's down to individuals to be more responsible, stand up for others and to educate our children and pupils (if we're teachers) in better manners and being more respectful of others and being better role models - in other words, having better manners.

Tegan Sun 17-Jul-16 12:58:48

I disagree that you can just walk away from online bullying. I had some horrible things said to me on a forum a few years ago [not this one]; thankfully the person who ran the site read it straight away and the poster got in serious trouble over it. But, even though I turned the computer off I felt that my personal space had been violated. Ditto an unpleasant conversation on a mobile phone left me unable to use that phone [it was with my husbands mistress].

thatbags Sun 17-Jul-16 13:47:30

I think it depends how and why a person (A) is asked to back off. If they are simply arguing a point strongly, saying what they think about an idea or a thing, and someone (B) tells them it's upsetting them because they don't like the idea that's being defended or they don't like the diction used (none of which is directed at them but is about something impersonal), then I think the request for A to back off (back off what?) is unreasonable and that it's perfectly reasonable to ignore it. If B can't stand it they need to walk away, even if they find that difficult.

If B is being abused, that's a different matter, but it is possible for someone to feel abused when they are not being abused at all. I think that's where difficulties and different interpretations can happen without anyone having done anything blameworthy.

thatbags Sun 17-Jul-16 13:50:20

I used to follow Ricky Gervais on Twitter. I agree more or less with his views on religion but I found I didn't like the way he was expressing his views. Someone else might say they found his way of expressing himself offensive. I say I didn't like it. So I stopped following him.

daphnedill Sun 17-Jul-16 14:10:40


I agree that if it's merely a difference of opinion, both sides have the right to state their opinion and shouldn't have to back off, although I've seen people on GN attempt to do that.

I'm really thinking of people being genuinely upset. In real life, people can observe body language and most people have the decency to stop. Online it's more difficult to know who is on the receiving end of comments and what state they're in.

It happened to me once years ago when I was feeling as low as it's possible to be. I don't talk about it often, but I've suffered from chronic depression for most of my life and every so often have acute flare ups. Somebody wrote something which really affected me and I wrote a comment, which prompted a torrent of abuse from a handful of posters. I actually asked them to stop and explained how it was affecting me, but these people just saw it as a game. I stopped logging on to that site, but they took away from me something which had been a lifeline. As far as I was concerned, that was bullying.

If you're lonely (which many people using social media are) and don't have anybody to talk to and already suffer from low self-esteem, continual deliberately negative comments can be devastating.

Anyway, I'm really thinking of the kind of thing I've seen on more open sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.