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Online abuse and the law

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Online abuse and the law

Post  Jean-Pierre.t50 on Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:35 am

This is going to be a very boring post! But it relates to online abuse and the current state of the law - given recent developments it may be handy to have a basis for discussion.

The law relating to this is complex and undeveloped, with little modern case law as yet. But it may be helpful to try to make some sense of all this:

In law, you can distinguish between

(a) real, identifyable people. (e.g. The McCanns, Amaral, Bennett etc)

(b) Those who are anonymous, and hide behind a username (e.g Sweepyface, Biretta, Stephen2500, Wonderfulspan, jean-pierre).

And also between

(c) Combatants (for want of a better term ) - those who actively participate in discussions online on twitter, facebook, blogs, forums etc - e.g. those in (b) and those in category (a) who do engage in online activity. (e.g. Bennett, and those whose real identity is revealed

(d) Non Combatants - those who do not engage in online stuff - e.g. The McCanns, Amaral.

Of course the boundaries between these can get blurred, but for the sake of this they will have to do.

In law, while someone is identifyable only by a usename, they cannot suffer injury. i.e. J-P can call Stephen2500 or wonderfulspam or biretta whatever he wants, and accuse them of whatever he likes, with no consequences at all in law. So getting exercised about Vee's posting is not correct - at this point. There is no criminal or civil action that can be taken.

All users must be aware that they may be identified. Maybe by being "outed" But also their ISP can be forced to reveal details of the user, where there is a possibility of civil or criminal action.

So people in categories (b) and (c) can go at each other hammer and tongs, if they so wish. In fact some forums have a sort of "rumpus room" where anything goes.

But as soon as they start on categories (a) and (d) they run a serious risk of falling foul of the criminal law, or of facing action for defamation.

Of course, once someone is actually unmasked, they may themselves then fall into both category (a) and (c). At this point they may be able to take action against those abusing them, and invoke a criminal complaint or a civil action. However, their own posting history would be considered, and the principle of volenti non fit injuria (to he who is willing no harm can be done) will come into play, and so someone with a vitriolic posting history who is subsequently unmasked and identified would be unlikely to succeed in any legal action.

Which underlines the sense of only posting things online that you would say face to face.


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Re: Online abuse and the law

Post  bb1 on Wed Oct 15, 2014 11:31 am

Many thanks, Jean-Pierre. It's no secret that the forkers and haters have a very poor grasp of the law. For instance, they seem to think that, because the McCanns aren't on twitter, Sweepy was committing no offence with her abuse.

They seem unaware that the deceased imagined the McCann family were reading her every poisonous word, and that she DID direct both the McCanns, and shamefully, Madeleine's brother and sister by name.

They all need to do a reality check - it will save them from a lot of nasty shocks.

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Re: Online abuse and the law

Post  Sabot on Wed Oct 15, 2014 11:56 am

Good Post, Jean Pierre. And as you say, hardly possible for Anonymous to defame Anonymous, or for a named person to defame Anonymous. But Anonymous can defame a named person. Presuming that anyone is defaming anyone.

Insults traded on Twitter are just a joke.
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Re: Online abuse and the law

Post  Jean-Pierre.t50 on Wed Oct 15, 2014 12:11 pm

But taken terribly seriously in some quarters.

Which is a bit of a joke.

Mind you, people need to understand the difference between someone saying "I am going to kill you" on a twitter account, and someone saying the same thing while standing on your doorstep with a sawn off shotgun.

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Re: Online abuse and the law

Post  bb1 on Wed Oct 15, 2014 12:17 pm

It's worth bearing in mind that the deceased Sweepy was physically close to the McCann family, and if her horrified neighbours are to be believed, was in the habit of going into Rothely itself to sound off about the McCanns to anyone unfortunate enough to be in her vicinity.

That sort of obsessive hatred is, IMO, well beyond 'having an opinion'. It really is a pity that the police didn't take a firmer line with these lunatics long ago; their abuse of the civil and human rights of others should NOT be acceptable in a European democracy.

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Re: Online abuse and the law

Post  Sabot on Wed Oct 15, 2014 12:50 pm

Jean-Pierre.t50 wrote:But taken terribly seriously in some quarters.  

Which is a bit of a joke.

Mind you, people need to understand the difference between someone saying "I am going to kill you" on a twitter account, and someone saying the same thing while standing on your doorstep with a sawn off shotgun.  

This could have sinister implications if the threatener implies that they know the real identity of the person they are threatening, even if in truth they don't.

I have traded the odd few insults on Twitter, but only when I am bored, and, or particularly incensed. But I have never been threatened. Nor have I been outed, so far. But this is the only place wherein I haven't been outed. Not that I would care if I was.

But apart from that pillock, can't remember his name, the Yorkshire man who looks like death walking, no one has ever threatened me. Possibly because I pointed out that France Telecom don't like this sort of thing, and will support their customers.

But enough of me, me, me. I am really sad that Brenda probably killed herself, but if you can't stand the heat then stay out of the kitchen. This is the first rule if anyone feels tempted to engage.
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Re: Online abuse and the law

Post  lily on Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:15 pm

Your post was the opposite of boring J-P.  Thank you for informing us of the law as it presently stands.  

We can clearly see from that what has been happening.
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