Open Source Subnet An independent Open Source community View more

Drunk Tweeting is not a crime, UK official says

The UK's Director of Public Prosecution Keir Starmer offered up some guidelines for dealing with internet trolls and those who make threats online. However, those who do so while drunk will be an exception.

In the pursuit of enforcing anti-trolling legislation in the country, the UK's Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, QC (of the Queen's Counsel), says those who post offensive messages or photos while drunk will be forgiven if they remove them when they sober up, the Telegraph reports.

The clarification came as Starmer introduced guidelines detailing how to deal with offensive internet posts and threats made online in the country. In the past 18 months, the UK has seen somewhere between 50 and 60 criminal prosecutions against people who have posted offensive material online, Starmer said. As the internet and internet culture continue to grow, these cases could reach into the thousands, he added.

Starmer cited free speech rights when declaring an exemption for those who say sorry once they've slept it off.

"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," Starmer said, according to the Telegraph.

However, Starmer says the guidelines he proposed encourage the websites to police their users and take "swift and effective" action against abusers. "Trolls," specifically, or those who make "grossly offensive or threatening remarks," will face prosecution, Starmer says.

Internet trolling has been a major topic of discussion in the UK legal system this year, after several cases have forced the government's hand. In June, British Facebook user Nicola Brookes filed a request with a UK court demanding that Facebook reveal the identities of a swarm of internet trolls who harrassed her and created a false account in her name. After she won, the UK court demanded that Facebook provide the names, email addresses, and IP addresses of the users behind the attack, with which Brookes would be able to use to pursue civil lawsuits.

Although the case was hardly effective - the trolls responded the way most would expect and continued to harass her, while the UK court's authority over Facebook's information is a bit murky - it was one of many that put a spotlight on the UK's Defamation Act, the highly controversial legislation that aims to crack down on harmful messages on the internet.

Now, those same trolls would be smart to delete their messages a day later and claim the drunk defense.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: Hidden Cause of Slow Internet and how to fix it
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.