UK Lawmakers Plan to Jail Internet Trolls for Causing ‘Emotional' Harm
'Trolls could face two years in prison for sending messages or posting content
British legislators are considering making it a criminal offense to post certain content online that will "likely" cause internet users “emotional, psychological, or physical harm.”
The proposed law, which would be part of the Online Safety Bill, would jail those who defy such requirements.
The Times reported:
“Trolls could face two years in prison for sending messages or posting content that causes psychological harm under legislation targeting online hate."
“Ministers will overhaul communication laws by creating new offenses in the forthcoming Online Safety Bill, the flagship legislation to combat abuse and hatred on the internet.”
“The Department for Culture, Media & Sport has accepted recommendations from the Law Commission for crimes to be based on ‘likely psychological harm,’” the report continued.
“The proposed law change will shift the focus on to the ‘harmful effect’ of a message rather than if it contains ‘indecent’ or ‘grossly offensive’ content, which is the present basis for assessing its criminality.”
The bill would ban “threatening communications” and “knowingly false communications.”
“We are making our laws fit for the digital age,” said a government spokesperson.
“Our comprehensive Online Safety Bill will make tech companies responsible for people’s safety, and we are carefully considering the Law Commission’s recommendations on strengthening criminal offenses.”
The bill would also require Big Tech platforms to adhere to additional standards, which include removing content that could be harmful to users even if it is legal.
Twitter’s Katy Minshall argued the draft bill failed to answer key questions like defining legal but harmful material, the BBC reported.
The U.K. Culture Secretary said the move would make the UK “the safest place in the world to be online.”
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, Nadine Dorries, wrote in the Daily Mail citing the terrorism-motivated stabbing of Sir David Amess in October.
She also noted the “online abuse” she has received as part of the motivation behind this legislative move.
“David was just doing his job, and his death was an attack on democracy. While our efforts to introduce legislation to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online might not have changed what happened last week, the heinous events have highlighted two awful facts," Dorries wrote.
"The online arena remains the home of disgusting, often anonymous abuse, and a place where people are radicalized."
"Online hate has poisoned public life. It’s often unbearable. And it has to end,” she added.
"We have the legislation to do it.
"Our Online Safety Bill is one of the most ambitious pieces of legislation in the internet age."
"No other country has published a bill that will go so far to make big tech accountable for the content on their platforms and for the way they promote it.”