- Dear Mr xxxxxx,
- Thank you for contacting me about freedom of speech, specifically in the context of Facebook and other social media. I apologise for the delay in responding to you, however I have received correspondence from numerous constituents regarding this issue and I wanted to consider all opinions fully before responding.
- I appreciate both the fundamental growing importance of technology and the benefits derived from the internet. Although freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, I am also aware of the ways in which the internet and social media networks can be abused. In particular, the sending of highly abusive and offensive messages can cause distress and pain. This is completely unacceptable.
- You will appreciate that I cannot comment on any current legal cases as these matters are for the judiciary. When a case comes before a court, the judge or magistrate decides the appropriate sentence for the offence committed by taking into account a number of different factors including the facts of the case, the maximum penalty and any sentencing guidelines
- However, you may be interested to learn that the Malicious Communications Act 1988 covers the “sending of an indecent, offensive or threatening letter, electronic communication or other article to another person”. Additionally, Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 created an offence of sending, or causing to be sent “by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”.
- Existing legislation can protect individuals from harassment and the Defamation Bill will attempt to strike the right balance between the right to freedom of expression and the protection of reputation and additionally make it clearer to website operators what their responsibilities are.
- Please rest assured that this Government recognises abuse and misuse of social networking sites and appropriate action must be taken to prevent such behaviour. It is imperative that police, prosecutors and social network site operators adopt a sensible and responsible approach and work tirelessly to meet the challenges of the online world.
- Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
- With best wishes,
Freedom of speech
a guest Oct 30th, 2012 565 Never
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