Tag Archives: Communications Act 2003

Causing offence on social media – the best overview yet

Susanna Rustin has written one of the best overviews I’ve yet seen of the growing number of legal cases involving individuals being put in jail for being ‘offensive’ – vital reading if you’re interested in media freedom and media law, given the obvious implications for journalism.

The key law here is the Communications Act 2003, specifically Section 127, which I’ve written about previously in 7 laws journalists now need to know.

Rustin summarises a number of cases where individuals have been prosecuted and jailed under the Act, and focuses in particular on two recent cases relating to social media updates posted following the stabbing of a school teacher.

“The cases of [Jack] Newsome and [Robert] Riley are different. They did not target or menace individuals, and lawyers and human rights campaigners have this week raised concerns about their being jailed for causing offence.”

Former director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer, provides some useful legal context and raises his own concerns around how “too many prosecutions for these kinds of offences can have the effect of chilling free speech”:

“There always used to be a protected space, so you could say things in private you could not say in public. With social media there is no protected space, and that’s what there needs to be a debate about. The notions around place and reaction just don’t work with social media. You could have a situation where two people in their living room make remarks to each other for which they would never be arrested, but if they make these remarks by email, they could be, as the legislation covers any public electronic communication system.”

Read the article in full here.

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7 laws journalists now need to know – from database rights to hate speech

Law books image by Mr T in DC

Image by Mr T in DC

When you start publishing online you move from the well-thumbed areas of defamation and libel, contempt of court and privilege and privacy to a whole new world of laws and licences.

This is a place where laws you never knew existed can be applied to your work – while other ones can come in surprisingly useful. Here are the key ones:

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What you need to know about the laws on harassment, data protection and hate speech {UPDATED: Stalking added}

The following is taken from the law chapter of The Online Journalism Handbook. The book blog and Facebook page contain updates and additions – those specifically on law can be found here.

Harassment

The Protection From Harrassment Act 1997 is occasionally used to prevent journalists on reporting on particular individuals. Specifically, any conduct which amounts to harassment of someone can be considered to a criminal act, for which the victim can seek an injunction (followed by arrest if broken) or damages.

One example of a blogger’s experience is illustrative of the way the act can be used with regard to online journalism, even if no case reaches court. Continue reading