UK Government Would Like To Put Internet Trolls In Jail For Two Years

from the and-you-just-got-yourself-some-trolling dept

The war on free speech continues. Andy Przybylski points us to the news that the UK's Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, is apparently really upset about internet trolls, and thinks they should be jailed for up to two years. He's pushing to extend an existing law -- which we've ridiculed in the past -- which allows for jailing trolls up to six months. Grayling thinks the threat of even longer sentences would suddenly make people nice online.
"These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life. No-one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media," Grayling said.

"That is why we are determined to quadruple the current six-month sentence."
The article also quotes a lawyer claiming -- apparently with total seriousness -- "There is a public interest in having people put away for a long time. It is putting someone in fear of their life and fear of physical harm."

No one denies that trolls can be abusive and harassing -- to the point of seriously upsetting some people's lives. But putting people in jail for being assholes? That crosses over a line. Grayling also has an interesting definition of cruelty:
"This is a law to combat cruelty – and marks our determination to take a stand against a baying cyber-mob. We must send out a clear message: if you troll you risk being behind bars for two years."
Of course, some people would argue that jailing people for two years for being jerks is actually pretty damn cruel as well. Perhaps the response should be to put Grayling in jail for his own cruelty...

Filed Under: chris grayling, free speech, harassment, trolls, uk


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 12:46pm

    Re: Troll bad, law good, me hungry

    Here's the problem, not everyone is capable of ignoring or "growing thicker skin" and not every troll is a coward hiding behind a keyboard.

    What do you do? If you said "if the person wasn't hurt and they were drunk, they why should the guy go to jail for rape?" and several people were targeting you, threatening to rape you, do you just ignore it? They find your email, work email, do you keep having the IT person change it? Change your personal email? Close your twitter/Facebook/YouTube/Google+ Whatever social media accounts in effort to get away from it?

    Now imagine you're a teen, your friends/acquaintances saw this, what some jerk posted online. The non-real friends laugh. They tease you online, but now it's also all around your school. You're 15, can you just move to a different city? Think about that now as an adult, can you just move because your child is being harassed? Do you tell him/her to get a grip? Grow thicker skin?

    Imagine you or your child has to sit through class, listening the snickering, constantly, every day. Walking down the halls while people look with disgust or laugh AT you! Imagine when the teachers do little about it.

    Ever been there? The whole class or a large number and the usual silent majority, having a laugh at your expense, every fucking day!

    How often does what happened in my class in Gr 7 happen? Student A was being harassed to the point of tears by several other students. It's Gr7, not high school where you only have an hour or so with the group, you have that group all day!!! Student A broke down. My teacher, known for being strict, did the right thing and ripped into that group, at the door, so the class could hear and see. Today some idiot parent would say "How dare you chastise my child?" Sadly that parent clearly didn't know how to raise their own kid properly, or their kid would not have done that to begin with.

    Now that's one kid in one class. Imagine the entire school chiming in online, so you close FB, but they have fun with emails, so you change your emails, and phone calls and whispering in the halls to avoid being heard, as if the teachers would actually pay attention to that.

    Imagine months of it.

    Now tell me freedom of speech is something we should never touch, let anyone say anything.

    That's the problem. Not everyone can say "Hey, fuck you!" Not everyone can humiliate the idiot harassing them.

    You can't always ignore it. That's the point.

    While politicians always abuse laws and twist them to be used in ways not intended, it doesn't mean things on the internet should be free-reign. Because many times they DO have real life consequences.

    What should happen to the harassed people? Ever wonder why some go nuts and shoot their classmates? Perhaps this is why. Perhaps better parenting, sure, but also, accountability and you can't do that without laws.

    Harassment should not be tolerated, online or in person, period!

    Being a jerk and crossing the line are two different things. Months of being a jerk, where others chime in, crosses the line. 18 yrs in prison is stupid, but so is defending the jerk with "freedom of speech" because harassment is not meant to be part of the freedom of speech protection!

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