The fight against online harassment has just taken a step up, with new guidelines that extend the list of activities that can be considered a criminal offence.
The Crown Prosecution Service has announced that creating fake online profiles to harass and humiliate others will now come within the scope of criminal prosecution.
The new CPS guidelines state that adults should be charged if they create a fake profile of someone else and use it to damage their victim’s reputation.
The updated rules also add more clarification to other offences such as revenge porn. Revenge porn has already been made a criminal offence in the UK, which could land a prison sentence of up to two years.
‘Cowardly and deeply upsetting’
Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, said on the new guidelines: “It is vital that prosecutors consider the bigger picture when looking at evidence and examine both the online and offline behaviour pattern of the defendant. Online abuse is cowardly and can be deeply upsetting to the victim.”
“Worryingly we have seen an increase in the use of cyber-enabled crime in cases related to Violence against Women and Girls, including domestic abuse.
“Offenders can mistakenly think that by using false online profiles and creating websites under a false name their offences are untraceable. Thankfully this is not the case and an online footprint will be left by the offender.”
While the new guidelines are enforceable right now, they’ll be reviewed after a ten-week consultation period, after which point further changes could be made.
While social networks like Facebook and Twitter have their own methods for tackling online abuse – to varying effect – the law has been slower to deal with internet harassment. Today’s new guidelines are encouraging.