New figures have shown a significant increase in the number of prosecutions of internet trolls over the past ten years. In 2014, over 1,200 people were found guilty of internet trolling under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. This is significantly higher than the number of prosecutions in 2004, which was 143.
Internet trolling has become more of an issue in recent years, with more people sending offensive messages and emails online, usually on social media websites. Last year, 1,501 defendants were prosecuted and 650 were cautioned, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). Out of the people convicted, 155 people were given a custodial sentence, with the average sentence being 2.2 months.
Despite an increase in the number of convictions, the number is lower than in 2014, when over 1,400 people were found guilty of internet trolling.
In 2013, Sir Keir Starmer QC, who was then the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that people who post offensive comments or messages online must pass a “high threshold” before legal action is taken against them. This comes after a Twitter user was cleared by a high court after being found guilty of making an offensive joke about blowing up Robin Hood Airport in 2010.
Professor Lilian Edwards from the University of Strathclyde said that she believes the increase in internet trolls is due to more people using social media.
“This was a relatively obscure provision before the internet. You would have been talking about poison telephone calls and there were relatively few of those,” she said.
“It’s obviously related to what has happened with social media.”
Professor Edwards added that prosecutions are being more carefully considered so that people are not prosecuted simply for posting jokes online.
“There is the DPP guidance which made prosecutions more carefully considered so that people were not being prosecuted for making jokes, for example,” she said.
“At the same time you have simply got more awareness that this is a serious problem both among the public and police.”
In October 2014, the Government announced that the maximum sentence for internet trolls who are convicted under the M
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