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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 @ 12:11pm

    The preaching is to be about threats against one's life, just like in real life - you threaten (phone call, letter, or in person) it is treated seriously.

    There's no free speech in threats! Freedom of speech does not include protection against threats.

    The real issue should not be "free speech" but the application of this proposed extension of an existing law.

    Someone says something about someone that's true or made up or hurtful, free speech, even though it can be harassment which isn't tolerated in real life!

    The real problem will be going too far with the law. Dissenting considered a threat, "I won't ever eat there again" considered a threat, etc.. Politicians would cry foul at that but we've seen them act just as stupid, see airport security or schools arresting children for drawing firearms.

    Threatening someone or mass harassment should never be tolerated. The latter is a society problem where people tend to mob and join in the "fun" instead of actually stopping the harasser in their tracks. The former should NEVER be tolerated and they SHOULD be punished!

    In Canada, 216.4a of the Criminal Code of Canada states that threatening someone with bodily harm is punishable by 2-5 yrs in prison. Doesn't matter if it is by phone, in person, or online. Should NOT matter!

    But there's nothing about hurting someone's feelings, as it should be.

    I wouldn't throw the "freedom of speech attack" criticism at this so quickly Mike. It's not so cut and dry.

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