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DPP in UK set to issue social media guidelines

The announcement was made by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the UK in order to ‘assist them [prosecutors] in deciding whether criminal charges should be brought’.

Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Image: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE DIRECTOR OF Public Prosecutions in the UK has announced that guidelines regarding social media use are to be issued in order to make it easier to determine when criminal charges should be brought.

When contacted by TheJournal.ie to see if similar action would be taken here, The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said that they would “not be commenting on the matters referred to”.

The announcement in the UK came by way of a statement on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) blog in which Keir Starmer QC listed a number of recent high profile cases, including the ‘Twitter joke trial’ and tweets which related to UK diver Tom Daley.

In reference to the latter case, Starmer said:

This case is one of a growing number involving the use of social media that the CPS has had to consider. There are likely to be many more. The recent increase in the use of social media has been profound. It is estimated that on Twitter alone there are 340 million messages sent daily.

He went on to say:

And the context in which this interactive social media dialogue takes place is quite different to the context in which other communications take place. Access to social media is ubiquitous and instantaneous. Banter, jokes and offensive comment are commonplace and often spontaneous. Communications intended for a few may reach millions.

Having found itself dealing with cases ‘in the largely unchartered (sic) territory of social media’, Starmer now believes that the issuing of ‘guidelines on social media cases for prosecutors’ needs to happen.

Speaking of those who will be involved before final guidelines are to be published, Starmer hopes to engage ‘campaigners, media lawyers, academics, social media experts and law enforcement bodies’.

In my view, the time has come for an informed debate about the boundaries of free speech in an age of social media.

Read: Column: The Twitter joke trial shows freedom of speech has to include comedy >

About the author:

Paul Hyland

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