Online trolling could soon be a punishable offence under the updated social media guidelines that the Crown Prosecution Service is proposing. With this, anyone in the UK who uses social media as a tool of harassment could be convicted.
According to the new amendment, sending communications on social media with the intent of targeting an individual or individuals through creating fake profiles, practising revenge pornography or stalking the victim online are all criminal offences.
"For example, it may be a criminal offence if a profile is created under the name of the victim with fake information uploaded which, if believed, could damage their reputation and humiliate them. In some cases the information could then be shared in such a way that it appears as though the victim has themselves made the statements," the directive explained.
The updated set of guidelines is divided into four broad categories: credible threats of violence to the person or damage to property, social media communication that targets specific individuals, breach of court orders and statutory prohibitions applied to the individuals and lastly any communication online or offline that is "grossly offensive, indecent obscene or false".
"Worryingly we have seen an increase in the use of cyber-enabled crime in cases related to Violence against Women and Girls, including domestic abuse. Offenders can mistakenly think that by using false online profiles and creating websites under a false name their offences are untraceable. Thankfully this is not the case and an online footprint will be left by the offender", said Alison Saunders, director of Public Prosecutions in an official statement.
"Online abuse is cowardly and can be deeply upsetting to the victim", Saunders added.
The department has launched a ten-week public consultation programme that started on 3 March to educate residents about the updated social media rules. The cybercrime guidelines were first published in 2012, but online trolling and cyberbullying became the latest addition to the existing set of instructions.
Microblogging platform, Twitter, is also supporting the fight against cyberbullying. In February, it formed a task force to single out and suspend accounts that engaged in "hateful conduct" or were perceived to "incite harm".