‘Cyber – trolling’: know what you are getting into when you post or share online?

Over the past two decades, society has become ever more reliant on internet-based services, including social media and other interactive forums.

This has led to the phenomenon of ‘trolling’; the online abuse of individuals by identifiable or anonymous parties. This anonymity or faceless interaction may explain why some individuals feel free to indulge in behaviours that they would probably not carry out in face-to-face scenarios.

The law regarding online abuse in the UK is somewhat fragmented and lies in several pieces of legislation, including the Communications Act, the Malicious Communications Act, and the Racial and Religious Hatred Act.

Cyber- trolling occurs, and an offence is committed when someone posts a message, video or other content online which is provocative or grossly offensive with the intention to harass or harm someone. It also includes using social media for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another on a persistent basis.

Current UK law prevents individuals from sending ‘a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character’.

It is well worth noting that it is an offence to send text messages, with the intent to cause distress and anxiety.

With offences contained in so many different pieces of legislation, some experts believe that new consolidating legislation would help to clarify the law on trolling.

However, the courts do seem to be managing under the existing system, with conviction rates increasing ten-fold from 2005 convictions to 2015 in the year 2017

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This article is written by our legal content writer James Chalkley (LLB. LLM.)

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