29 police forces have revealed statistics about crimes involving Facebook and Twitter in a Freedom of Information request.
In 2008, a total of 556 complaints were made to police about social media postings on these 2 site. This had increased to 4,908 reports last year.
The figures also show 653 people were charged for social networking crime in 2011.
Greater Manchester Police charged the highest number of people, at 115.
Lancashire Police received reports of six threats of murder and there were numerous reports of sexual offences and fraud. But presumably the large part were claims of insult, offence or political incorrectness.
Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said:
These figures show just how badly some police forces had lost all proportion when dealing with social media.
So many arrests was clearly undermining freedom of speech and while the new guidance should reduce the problem, hundreds of people now have criminal records for the rest of their lives when it is far from clear they should do.
The law around speech crimes is still in need of a total overhaul as the legislation that led to some of the more absurd prosecutions remains in place.
Chief Constable Andy Trotter, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on communications, said forces must prioritise crimes which cause genuine harm, rather than attempting to curb freedom of expression.
Director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer QC announced the new guidelines on how people who post offensive messages on Facebook and Twitter should be dealt with. Hopefully reducing the number of people prosecuted for trivia.
Robert Sharp, campaign manager for English PEN, which lobbies on free speech and art internationally, said the prosecutions for hate online had been:
All young men between the ages of 18 and 22, they are all from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the things that they have been prosecuted for have been immature and inarticulate. There's almost a criminalisation of adolescence, and of poor
literacy, that's one issue that seems to have emerged.
The communications laws being used are for grossly offensive messages. Offence as the trigger for prosecution is still a big problem. The case that is the most important is that of Azhar Ahmed, he is the only case of an ethnic minority. He
posted something silly and illiterate about how soldiers were going to hell. He was prosecuted because far-right activists made a co-ordinated campaign to have him arrested.
So by using offence as the trigger for prosecution, you are putting the power of censorship into the hands of people who may chose to be offended for political gain. That's a big deal for censorship.
Saudi authorities should immediately drop all charges against the detained editor of a website created to foster debate about religion and religious figures in Saudi Arabia.
On December 17, 2012, the Jeddah District Court, which had been hearing the case against the editor, Raif Badawi, referred it to a higher court on a charge of apostasy, which carries the death penalty. The charges against him, based solely to
Badawi's involvement in setting up a website for peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures, violate his right to freedom of expression.
Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said:
Badawi's life hangs in the balance because he set up a liberal website that provided a platform for an open and peaceful discussion about religion and religious figures. Saudi Arabia needs to stop treating peaceful debate as a capital offense.
A member of Badawi's family told Human Rights Watch that during the December 17 hearing, Judge Muhammad al-Marsoom prevented Badawi's lawyer from representing his client in court and demanded that Badawi repent to God. The judge informed
Badawi that he could face the death penalty if he did not repent and renounce his liberal beliefs, the family member said.
Badawi refused, leading Judge al-Marsoom to refer the case to the Public Court of Jeddah, recommending that it try Badawi for apostasy.
Prior to the December 17 hearing, Badawi had been charged with insulting Islam through electronic channels and going beyond the realm of obedience, neither of which carries the death penalty. A different judge presided over five
sessions of the trial but was replaced without explanation for the December 17 hearing by Judge al-Marsoom.
Security forces arrested Badawi, a 30-year-old from the port city of Jeddah, on June 17. Badawi in 2008 was co-founder of the Free Saudi Liberals website, an online platform for debating religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi court sentenced Raef Badawi to seven years in jail and 600 lashes for setting up a "liberal" network and alleged insults to Islam, activists said.
A judge had referred Badawi in December to a higher court for alleged apostasy, a charge that could lead to the death penalty in the ultra-conservative kingdom. But thankfully the charge of apostasy was dropped.
A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced the editor of an internet forum he founded to discuss the role of religion in the country to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes, according to reports in the Saudi media.
Raif Badawi, who started the Free Saudi Liberals website, was originally sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in July last year, but an appeals court overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial.
Apart from imposing a stiffer sentence on Badawi in his retrial, the judge at the criminal court in Jeddah also fined him 1m riyals. Badawi's website has been closed since his first trial.
His lawyers said the sentence was too harsh, although the prosecutor had demanded a harsher penalty, the news website Sabq reported. The ruling is subject to appeal.
New guidelines could see fewer people being charged in England and Wales for offensive messages on social networks.
The Director of Public Persecutions said people should only face a trial if their comments on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere go beyond being offensive. He claimed the guidance combats threats and internet trolls without having a chilling
effect on free speech.
The guidance comes after a string of cases of prosecutions for jokes, and trivial insults, including the prosecution of a man who tweeted a joke threatening to blow up an airport.
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had now dealt with more than 50 cases relating to potentially criminal comments posted online.
He said the interim guidelines, which come into force immediately, clarified which kinds of cases should be prosecuted and which would only go ahead after a rigorous assessment whether it was in the public interest to prosecute.
The guidance says that if someone posts a message online that clearly amounts to a credible threat of violence, specifically targets an individual or individuals, or breaches a court order designed to protect someone, then the person behind the
message should face prosecution.
People who receive malicious messages and pass them on, such as by retweeting, could also fall foul of the law.
However, online posts that are merely grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false would face a much tougher test before the individual could be charged under laws designed to prevent malicious communications. Starmer said that many
suspects in this last category would be unlikely to be prosecuted because it would not be in the public interest to take them to court. This could include posts made by drunk people who, on sobering up, take swift action to delete the
communication. Starmer said:
These interim guidelines are intended to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to uphold the criminal law.
The interim guidelines thus protect the individual from threats or targeted harassment while protecting the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some and
painful to those subjected to it.
Although the interim guidance is now in force, its final form is subject to a consultation that runs until 13 March 2013.
Outstanding human rights leaders from all walks of life were honoured for their efforts at Liberty's annual Human Rights Awards in London last night. Inspirational legal figures, young people, artists and campaigners were rewarded for their work
in protecting and promoting the rights of others at the ceremony at the capital's Southbank Centre.
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said:
It is a joy to celebrate the dedication, commitment and achievements of all our winners and nominees, every one of whom has done so much to protect precious rights and freedoms.
With human rights so often trashed in certain circles, and in the shadow of Secret Courts and the Snoopers' Charter, it is all the more inspiring to reward our winners' efforts.
The Liberty Human Rights Awards 2012 winners and category nominees in full were:
Lifetime Achievement Award:
Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton -- In recognition of a career dedicated to defending and upholding the rights of disabled people in the UK. She has fought hard to change attitudes towards disabled people, focusing on much-needed support
as opposed to charity.
Independent Voice of the Year:
Lord Pannick -- For his vocal and forensic opposition to the Justice and Security Bill as a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords. Since becoming a peer, he has consistently held the Government to account on Rule of Law and human
rights issues. The other nominees were Salma Yaqoob and The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt. Rev. James Jones.
Human Rights Campaigner of the Year Award:
Open Rights Group and 38 Degrees -- For their effective campaigning work to defend freedom of expression and civil liberties in the digital age which has, in a very short time, made a huge impact in the way social change is effected
-- particularly their online campaigns against the "Snoopers' Charter". The other nominees were Change.org and Blacklist Support Group.
Lifetime Achievement Award:
Sir Nicolas Bratza -- In recognition of fourteen years' dedicated service as the UK judge of the European Court of Human Rights, culminating in his appointment as President of the Court in 2011. In addition to his judicial work, Sir
Nicolas has also played a vital role in seeking to defend human rights and the Rule of Law from unjustified attack.
Human Rights Arts Award, in association with Southbank Centre:
Jenny Sealey -- For her tireless work with deaf and disabled artists. Her commitment to providing audiences and actors with a true theatrical experience culminated in her co-artistic direction of over 3,000 participants at the Opening
Ceremony of the Paralympic Games this year. The other nominees were Baaba Maal, Mark Cousins and Deborah Warner, Fiona Shaw and Artichoke.
Human Rights "Close to Home" Award:
Aaron Sonson, Satwant Singh Kenth, Gregory Paczkowski -- For providing important public information about individual rights and the potential abuse of police powers through their mobile app "Stop and Search". The app itself has now
had over 2,600 downloads and over 150 experiences uploaded. The other nominees were Ashley John-Baptiste and Mark Neary.
Human Rights Lawyer of the Year:
Ben Cooper -- For his committed and tireless work on some of the most complex and difficult extradition cases. Ben acted for Gary McKinnon throughout his fight against extradition to the US, finally achieving justice only
last month. The other nominees were Raggi Kotak of One Pump Court and Michael Oswald at Bhatt Murphy.
Human Rights Young Person of the Year:
Martha Payne -- For defending free expression when she stood up to her local council after they banned her publishing pictures of schools meals on her blog, NeverSeconds. The council backed down after outcry and, since then, her website
has been visited by over six million people and has raised more than £100,000 for charity Mary's Meals. The other nominees were Scottish Youth Parliament and Eilidh Naismith and Billy Davidson.
Human Rights "Long Walk" Award:
Hillsborough Family Support Group, Hillsborough Justice Campaign and Hope for Hillsborough -- For their unwavering dedication to seeking justice for the 96 victims, their families and the survivors of the Hillsborough Disaster. The
tireless campaigning efforts of these groups have finally led to the publication of the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel. The other nominees were the "Mau Mau" Litigants and Medical Justice.
The Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell has been harangued for a cartoon about Israel's attack on Gaza.
A cartoon appearing in Friday's paper, shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a puppet-master, controlling tiny versions of Foreign Secretary William Hague and Tony Blair.
It was published after Hague said that Hamas bore principal responsibility for the military operation .
Bell explained that the cartoons of Hague and Blair were a side issue to inspiration drawn from a press conference given by Netanyahu in front of numerous Israeli flags. Bell added that he had chosen to draw the cartoon because:
the coverage of Operation Pillar of Defence has been so skewed in favour of the Israeli side, particularly I regret to say on the BBC, that I do personally feel quite a strong need to make the counter argument.
Barrister Jeremy Brier lodged a complaint about Steve Bell's drawing with the Press Complaints Commission claimed that the image was plainly antisemitic.
A man has fallen victim to Kent Police who detained him for posting an image of a burning poppy on Facebook. He was detained on Sunday night on suspicion of making malicious telecommunications.
The force tried to justify their attack on free speech in a statement:
A man (was) interviewed by police this morning following reports that a picture of a burning poppy had been posted on a social media website.
Officers were contacted at around 4pm yesterday and alerted to the picture, which was reportedly accompanied by an offensive comment.
The offensive comment was the trivial comment:
How about that you squadey cunts
The man was later released pending further inquiries.
His detention was met with disbelief on Twitter, where people mounted a fierce discussion over civil liberties. David Allen Green, a journalist and lawyer for the New Statesman, tweeting as Jack of Kent, wrote:
What was the point of winning either World War if, in 2012, someone can be casually arrested by Kent Police for burning a poppy?
Australian musician and comedian Tim Minchin also expressed his incredulity, tweeting:
You've a right to burn a (fake!) poppy. Whether I agree with the action is utterly irrelevant. Kent Police are out of line.
A man who shouted no ifs, no buts, no public sector cuts at Prime Minister David Cameron during a speech in Glasgow in July has been sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
Activist Stuart Rodger admitted behaving in a threatening or abusive manner by violating a security cordon; shouting and failing to desist; attempting to approach Cameron and causing fear and alarm. His sentence was reduced from 150 hours of
community service to 100 due to his guilty plea.
A UK government report has released details estimating the extent of trafficking in the UK. 946 victims have been in contact with authorities in 2011, compared with 710 in 2010.
The report by the inter-departmental ministerial group on human trafficking states that trafficking gangs in China, Vietnam, Nigeria and eastern Europe now pose the biggest threat.
The report details two cases of people trafficked for illegal organ harvesting, which were stopped before any operation was carried out. A report from the Salvation Army said that of the 378 individuals it helped in 2011/12, 44% were trafficked
for labour exploitation, 42% for sexual exploitation and one for the purposes of organ removal.
According to the government study, 712 adult victims and 234 child victims were reported last year to the national referral mechanism, the body that identifies trafficking victims.
According to the report, Nigerians were the largest group of potential trafficking victims, and Romanians the biggest group in Europe. It estimates there were 92 organised crime groups in the UK with known involvement in human trafficking, and
142 defendants were charged with offences related to human trafficking in 2011-12.
Police have gotten involved in 4,000 petty squabbles on Facebook and Twitter. Statistics from 22 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales show arrests for insulting messages are averaging three a day.
The police say they are wasting valuable time and resources tackling internet users directing abuse at each other. In most cases, police simply tell victims to delete their tormentors from their networks, but the Crown Prosecution Service says a
few dozen incidents have led to court, with the figure growing rapidly in recent months.
An policeman from North Wales said:
You will always have one or two serious incidents of harassment and bullying on Facebook and the like but for the most part it's petty stuff. It takes up a lot of time and the normal result is advice from us to all parties to grow up.
Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said:
We have concerns that we don't have the resources to police everything that's said on the internet. We can't have people getting upset in a one-off situation and involving the police. I do think this could be the thin end of the wedge. If we
show too much willingness and get involved in every squabble, we're setting ourselves up to keep doing this because it will be expected.
Statistics from 22 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales show there were at least 4,098 arrests under the relevant laws between the start of 2009 and the middle of 2012, averaging three a day. More than 2,000 people were either charged
or given an out-of-court fine or caution.
The Naked Rambler has been arrested again. Stephen Gough was detained as he strolled naked through Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, after a complaint from a member of the public.
After his release from Scotland he crossed over into England and had completed around 220 miles before his arrest on suspicion of breaching the peace at around midday on Wednesday.
Gough was held for a supposed breach of the police and this morning released. But this morning he was arrested in Halifax having enjoyed just 25 minutes of freedom. He will return to Halifax Police Station on November 2.
Comedian Frankie Boyle's jokes are vile and offensive but not racist , his lawyer told a High Court jury as he began legal proceedings against the publisher of the Daily Mirror newspaper.
Boyle is suing Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) for what he described as a very serious libel over an article published in July last year.
The Daily Mirror had claimed that an offensive joke about the Olympic medal-winning swimmer Rebecca Adlington had led to his departure from the BBC Two panel show in an article that bore the subheading New show for vile comic , and began:
Racist comedian Frankie Boyle could soon be returning to TV despite upsetting thousands of viewers with his sick jokes, which was published by the newspaper in July last year.
Boyle's barrister David Sherborne said that to call someone racist was obviously defamatory , and contended the comedian did not object to being criticised but would not stand to be described as racist.
It is believed lawyers acting for the Mirror Group will defend the article by stating they believe that the accusation of racism is true. The court heard that the publisher intends to use 12 examples of Boyle's jokes, mostly from his former
Channel 4 show Tramadol Nights , to show that the racism allegation is true.
Frankie Boyle has won more than £ 54,000 damages after a High Court jury concluded that he had been libelled by the Daily Mirror who defamed him by describing him as racist and saying he had been forced to quit
the BBC panel show, Mock The Week.
Jurors ruled in favour of Boyle yesterday, after a week-long trial in London. They awarded him a total of £ 54,650 damages.
Boyle onfirmed that he would donate the money to charity and said on Twitter:
I'm very happy with the jury's unanimous rejection of the Mirror's allegation that I am a racist. Racism is still a very serious problem in society, which is why I've made a point of being anti-racist in my life and work and that's why I brought
A Judge has sentenced a woman for supposedly vile messages in response to Azhar Ahmed's anti-soldier rant on Facebook.
Judge Mallon told Wilby that she had considered the fact that Ahmed had set this whole train running and he had received a community-based punishment. She said that her case should act as a caution to others airing their views online.
Judge Mallon sentenced Wilby to a 12 month community order, including 15 days of activity and 100 hours of unpaid work she will also have to pay £ 85 court costs.
Wilby, who had no previous convictions, also lost her job as a result of the proceedings against her.
Simon Lindley, mitigating, said:
She didn't set up the site, it was something she saw and she was upset.
She's got drawn into it. She's seen all these other people making comments and has unfortunately done the same.
She didn't step back and think of what she was doing -- she's deeply remorseful.
Of course the newspaper would not print or even give an indication of what was actually said but in the absence of facts then one must assume that it was just a few mindless expletives and a couple of religious terms.
A man who walked around a town centre wearing an anti-police T-shirt on the same day two female officers lost their lives in a gun and grenade attack has been jailed.
Barry Thew, of Radcliffe, Greater Manchester admitted to a Section 4A Public Order Offence for wearing the T-shirt, on which he had written messages including One less pig; perfect justice?
Thew, who has a lengthy criminal record, was jailed for four months. He was ordered to serve a further four months, consecutively, after he admitted breaching a suspended sentence order imposed for an earlier offence of cannabis production.
Judge Peter Lakin said the deaths of PCs Bone and Hughes had left their families distraught and caused upset to every level of Greater Manchester Police and to the public as a whole:
This, on any view, is a shocking case. Your response to the shocking events was to parade around in a T-shirt in the centre of Radcliffe which had on it the most disgusting of slogans.
The director of public prosecutions is exploring whether Facebook and Twitter should take more responsibility for censoring their networks for supposed abuse and harassment in an attempt to reduce the number of cases of people being persecuted
for jokes or insults.
Keir Starmer is this week consulting with lawyers, journalists and police in a series of seminars on the subject. He seems keen to ask if social media companies can censor their sites because police are concerned about the volume of offensive
posts and tweets they may be called to investigate.
Those attending the panels said Starmer frequently returned to the subject, and he is preparing to draw up guidelines against an almost daily backdrop of arrests, prosecutions and controversy. But there is no immediate consensus on what greater
self-regulation for social media would look like.
The growing number of arrests often invoke the repressive section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act, which makes it an offence to send or post grossly offensive material online.
Meanwhile, police are worried about the time spent examining cases and that it will only be practicable to investigate a handful of cases where emotions are running high. Andy Trotter, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on
media issues, said: Many offensive comments are made every day on social media and guidance will assist the police to focus on the most serious matters.
Police would like Facebook and Twitter to act faster in deleting offensive comments to avoid arrests being necessary and to see if it is possible to explore ways of blocking particular individuals from using their networks.
A teenager who posted bad taste jokes about April Jones on his Facebook page has been jailed for 12 weeks.
Matthew Woods made comments about April and Madeleine McCann. Woods was arrested for his own safety after about 50 people descended on his home.
He pleaded guilty at Chorley magistrates court to sending by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is 'grossly offensive'.
The chairman of the bench, Bill Hudson, said Woods's comments were so abhorrent he deserved the longest sentence the court could hand down. Hudson added: The reason for the sentence is the seriousness of the offence, the public outrage
that has been caused and we felt there was no other sentence this court could have passed which conveys to you the abhorrence that many in society feel this crime should receive.
The court was told Woods's Facebook page was available to a large number of people but there's no mention of how many people actually saw it.
Martina Jay, persecuting, said: He saw a joke on Sickipedia [an online database devoted to sick jokes] and changed it slightly.
Among Woods's comments were: Who in their right mind would abduct a ginger kid? In another he said: I woke up this morning in the back of a transit van with two beautiful little girls, I found April in a hopeless place. He also
wrote: Could have just started the greatest Facebook argument EVER. April fools, who wants Maddie? I love April Jones. Also posted were comments of a more sexually explicit nature.
The CPS has confirmed that it reviewed the case and was content with the prosecution going ahead.
Offsite Comment: No one should be put in prison for making a joke that other people don’t like.
A sales adviser who made a series of bad taste comments about five-year-old April Jones on Facebook has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Magistrates in Worcester chose not to jail Sam Busby despite being told that another Facebook user was sentenced to three months in prison for an almost identical offence last month.
Busby admitted he was responsible for the comments and told officers he thought they could only be seen by his friends on Facebook.
Passing a six-week jail term suspended for 18 months, magistrates said they had taken into account Busby's early guilty plea and remorse.
The chairman of the bench, Gill Porter, told the teenager:
You will realise by the time we have taken to discuss this matter how seriously we view it. You have caused an immense amount of distress, not only to the recipient of this but potentially to April Jones's family and friends.
It happened at a very sensitive time for everybody concerned. You were warned by your friends when they first saw your so-called joke, but you took no notice and you continued to make further even more offensive comments.
Busby was also ordered to pay an £ 80 victim surcharge and keep to a 7pm-7am curfew for eight weeks.
A man who sent insulting messages on Facebook mocking the search for murdered five-year-old April Jones claimed his freedom of expression was breached, a court heard.
Liam Young posted supposedly shocking and offensive remarks online two days after April Jones went missing last year.
He avoided a jail sentence but angered a sheriff after claiming social network messaging should be unrestricted in a democratic society . Young was given 120 hours unpaid work after admitting disorderly conduct by sending indecent and
Sheriff Murphy highlighted Young's remarks to social workers, saying: It concerns me that someone believes they can say what they like on Facebook because they live in a democratic society.