Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
Current laws sufficient to cover social media offences
Legislation currently in existence, including the Communications Act 2003 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, along with the guidelines for applying them published by the Director of Public Prosecutions, are enough to ensure that criminal offences committed using social media can be adequately prosecuted, says the House of Lords Communications Committee in its new report, published today.
- Report: Social media and criminal offences (HTML)
- Report: Social media and criminal offences (PDF)
- Evidence: Social media and criminal offences ( PDF 761 KB)
- Inquiry: Social media and criminal offences
- Select Committee on Communications
However, the Committee is calling for more clarity from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as to when an indecent communication (e.g. “revenge porn”) could – and should – be subject to prosecution under existing powers. It is also encouraging website operators such as Facebook and Twitter to speed up requests for identification of users from our law enforcement agencies, using powers already granted by Parliament. The Committee is also calling for better statistics on the balance of offences committed online and by traditional means, as well as the number of offences that are actually reported.
Chairman of the Committee, Lord Best, said:
“34 million people in the UK use Facebook. And 15 million in the UK use Twitter, contributing to the 500million Tweets that are sent a day. And although most of these range from the informative to the forgettable, people need to remember that what is criminal off-line is also criminal online.
“Cyber bullying, revenge porn, trolling and virtual mobbing are new phrases in our media vocabulary, but they generally describe behaviour that is already criminal. Although anonymity has a valuable place when using social media – enabling human rights workers and journalists working in conflict areas to communicate with the outside world, for example – its negative effects when used as a shield for offenders to hide behind should be addressed.
“We need to be careful: we need to balance people’s right to freedom of expression with implementing the criminal law, whether the offences are committed online or off-line. It’s a complex subject, but we feel that legislation as it currently exists is generally fit for purpose and doing the job, even though it was drafted before the social media were first invented.
“We are not, though, saying that the legislation is perfect. The DPP’s guidance is very good but we would like clarification as to when a person who sends an indecent communication could and should be prosecuted.
“We encourage websites to speed up processing law enforcement requests for identities, to develop further their ability to monitor the use of their services and to build on the effectiveness of measures already in place to enable people using social media platforms to protect themselves.
“Just as importantly, as well as the legal measures available to us, we must ensure that parents and schools are taking on board the extent of the problem. They need to make sure that children are taught – at home and in school – that being horrid, offensive and rude to people online is just as wrong as it would be to do it face-to-face. Educating the next generation about how they should behave in the technological world is as important as teaching them the rights and wrongs of how to behave in person.”
Latest News from
Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
European Statutory Instruments Committee publishes Tenth report21/01/2022 11:38:00
Following the Committee's meeting on Tuesday 18 January, its tenth report of Session 2021-22 has been published.
Calling for respect and co-operation to build a stronger Union for the 21st century20/01/2022 15:33:00
Following its inquiry into the future governance of the UK, the Constitution Committee has published its report: Respect and Co-operation: Building a Stronger Union for the 21st century.
Details yet to be fleshed out on costly green jobs ambitions, Government admits20/01/2022 11:38:00
In its response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s report, Green Jobs, the Government has confirmed that key government departments are not currently represented in its Green Jobs Delivery Group, and that no changes will be made to the national curriculum to embed environmental sustainability in education.
Asylum reforms would undermine UK’s human rights obligations19/01/2022 11:15:00
The Government reforms of the asylum system, as proposed in the Nationality and Borders Bill, would fail to meet the UK’s human rights obligations and risk exacerbating the already unacceptable backlog of claims, a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights has found.
England and Wales Cricket Board and Chairs of County clubs questioned racism in cricket18/01/2022 10:15:00
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee follow up its Report published last week on racism in cricket in a hearing with the England and Wales Cricket Board and Chairs of four county clubs later this month.
European Statutory Instruments Committee publishes Ninth report14/01/2022 15:33:00
Following the Committee's meeting on Tuesday 11 January, its ninth report of Session 2021-22 has been published.
Public funding for cricket must depend on progress to tackle racism14/01/2022 11:38:00
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s Report into racism in cricket urges the Government to limit public funding for the game unless there is demonstrable progress on ridding racist behaviour from clubs and among spectators.
Committee on Standards releases a report on the conduct of Daniel Kawczynski MP14/01/2022 10:15:00
This report arises from an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards into Mr Kawczynski’s conduct, following a complaint from the Chair of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP).