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“Offensive” tweets unlikely to bring criminal charges

Comments made on social network Twitter, are unlikely to lead to criminal charges, the current director of prosecutions, Keir Starmer has said. This follows in the wake of scandal surrounding jokes made about Olympic diver Tom Daley and another made about blowing up a British airport.

Starmer clarified the point, by saying that while sustained abuse or threats could still lead to charges being brought, one off jokes – even if deemed offensive by some – would not. To help police distinguish between these two types of shocking internet humour, he said that guidelines would be drawn up. He did admit however, that the interactivity and public nature of social networking had proved difficult to define in traditional legal terms.

Context was important he said, simply because online communications were far different than standard forms of interaction. “Access to social media is ubiquitous and instantaneous. Banter, jokes and offensive comment are commonplace and often spontaneous. Communications intended for a few may reach millions,” he said. Ultimately it was about weighing up an individuals right not to be harassed, with that of free speech. If someone makes a campaign out of attacking someone online, then criminal prosecution might be warranted, but he warned that the “threshold” for that sort of action should be high.

Offensive Tweets
Some people would say a person's actions were more offensive than their tweets.

The need for clarification in the matter was highlighted by the fact that just a few hours after Mr Starmer’s announcement, a man was arrested over a Facebook message related to the shooting of two police officers on Tuesday.

Before a final decision is made on how to proceed however, Mr Starmer made it clear that a public consultation would take place.

KitGuru Says: It seems rediculous that we’re at a point that statements made over twitter can get anyone in trouble beyond that of the website’s administration. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Right?

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