With the news that Liam Stacey, a student who made racially offensive comments via Twitter, will serve 56 days in jail, people have rightly become concerned about what they can and cannot say when online.
Speaking about the incident, head of the CPS in the North East, Wendy Williams, said “When a person makes such comments digitally, they effectively hand police and prosecutors much of the evidence needed to build a robust case against them” while the chairman of the Law Society of England and Wales criminal law committee, Ian Kelcey added “It is too easy to press the send button without considering the effect of publication.”
Mr. Stacey’s conviction is the latest in a series of successful prosecutions for offences that have ranged from being racially abusive to encouraging riots as well as sending menacing messages, libel, and contempt of court as authorities crack down on trolls who step over the line, especially on the popular social networking platform Twitter.
The move in recent months to prosecute is being seen as many as a warning that they are not beyond the reach of the law just because they are behind a computer screen. Ian Kelcey said “The danger of using social media, which has its own codes, without thinking, is that Twitter is available to umpteen million people, so umpteen people might see their comments. The judiciary needs to make it plain for people who can’t think beyond the next 30 seconds to consider if what they are going to say is an offence.”