Law Commission to look at laws surrounding online bullying
09 February, 2018
The government has asked the Law Commission to review current laws surrounding online bullying, or ‘trolling’ and whether they provide enough protection to victims in the digital world.
The Commission aims to look at how current laws, such as the Malicious Communications Act 1988, and the Communications Act 2003, deal with online communications. These laws were created before the internet became what it is today, and as a result elements may need reviewing and updating in light of the current climate. Some of the definitions in the current laws may now be considered obsolete, or have different meanings when applied to technology, such as the meaning of the word ‘sender’.
Research shows that one in three people were the victims of cyberbullying, trolling and harassment in the UK last year. Bullying isn’t a new phenomenon, it happens in schools, and workplaces, and has done for many years. But it is happening on a large scale online, and gives bullies a much easier way to target their victims.
Harping back to the days of poison pen letters, where people could hide behind anonymous letters, the internet gave people the ability to hide behind their keyboards. Those who were previously too cowardly to bully you to your face are now able to so anonymously, from behind a screen. Not only is bullying carried out between acquaintances, it is also directed at celebrities, politicians, media personalities and even their children.
This was the case with Katie Price. The former glamour model’s disabled son Harvey, who suffers from Prader-Willi syndrome, has been the target for many cruel internet ‘trolls’. He is unable to defend himself, or even understand the abuse, something which his mother claims only makes the vitriol worse. This awful behaviour towards her eldest is what has driven Katie to campaign for online abuse to be made a criminal offence. She found that when she called the police they were unable to prosecute the offenders as there are no specific laws that deal with online abuse.
The law clearly lags way behind in addressing the problem effectively. Although there are measures to deal with abuse, it’s argued they don’t go far enough. The Law Commission aims to make sure that the law is flexible and robust enough to answer all the questions the digital world poses.
We agree with Katie Price that changes are needed and we look forward to the Law Commission review and what comes out of it.
If you have faced bullying at work, our specialist solicitors can help. We deal with bullying and harassment claims in the workplace. Get in touch today.