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Censorship Government United Kingdom Your Rights Online

In UK, Twitter, Facebook Rants Land Some In Jail 233

concealment writes with this excerpt from an Associated Press story, as carried by the Houston Chronicle:"In Britain, hundreds of people are prosecuted each year for posts, tweets, texts and emails deemed menacing, indecent, offensive or obscene, and the number is growing as our online lives expand. 'Fifty years ago someone would have made a really offensive comment in a public space and it would have been heard by relatively few people,' said Mike Harris of free-speech group Index on Censorship. People take it upon themselves to report this offensive material to police, and suddenly you've got the criminalization of offensive speech. Figures obtained by The Associated Press through a freedom of information request show a steadily rising tally of prosecutions in Britain for electronic communications — phone calls, emails and social media posts — that are grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character — from 1,263 in 2009 to 1,843 in 2011. Justice Igor Judge said in his judgment that the law should not prevent 'satirical or iconoclastic or rude comment, the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, banter or humor, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it.'"
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In UK, Twitter, Facebook Rants Land Some In Jail

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  • Re:FUCK BRITS (Score:4, Informative)

    by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @03:15PM (#41994483)

    Europe (including the UK) is special too: "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers."

    Unfortunately that's followed by the proviso "The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary." Yes, we had our equivalent to the Patriot Act written in from the outset.

  • by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @04:06PM (#41995115) Journal
    Nope, we just invented manners, it's very different.

    For those who don't know, here's the actual situation in the UK:

    The courts generally consider internet posts in the same way they do traditional journalism, you can say what you want as long as it isn't libelous, incitement to commit a crime, or "grossly offensive". Bloggers and Tweeters etc are generally given more leeway and lower fines/sentences than traditional journalists on the grounds that, while ignorance is no excuse, "proper" journalists should very certainly know better. There is no written constitution as such in the UK, and therefore no official right to free speech, but it is generally accepted that the really important free speech, such as speaking out against the government, is protected, and European legislation does provide some protection which UK law omits entirely.

    The big problem is the highly subjective "grossly offensive" element mentioned above. The interpretation of this is very much down to the opinion of the judge and/or jury overseeing the case. In my opinion they've been overly touchy about this - after all, you can shout at somebody in a pub that you are going to kill them and chances are the worst you'll see is the inside of a cell for 12hrs and a drunk and disorderly charge.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM