Online trolling might soon become a criminal offence in the UK as Justice Secretary David Gauke has revealed that the government will conduct a review of online laws to provide a safer internet experience. This comes after television personality Katie Price called for stricter penalties on those individuals who abuse others on social media platforms.
During an interview with ITV's Robert Peston, Gauke on Sunday (11 February) explained that official bodies would have to look into the issue given the overwhelming evidence of harassment on social media. "I think we have to consider that. I mean what we see is some appalling behaviour on social media," Gauke said.
Trolling, as it has popularly been referred to, is the practice of creating malicious posts on the internet with the intent to provoke or upset people. In October 2017, UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley published an 'Internet Safety Green Paper' - a strategy that sought to reduce online harassment.
As reported by The Guardian, Bradley stated: "Behaviour that is unacceptable in real life is unacceptable on a computer screen. We need an approach to the Internet that protects everyone without restricting growth and innovation in the digital economy."
Debates have risen over how far trolling can be considered a form of bullying, particularly in the case of celebrities who are a popular target on social media. Most recently, Katie Price shed light on the bullying endured by her son Harvey on social media.
Harvey, who has a genetic condition known as Prader-Willi syndrome, was bullied last year by an unnamed 19-year old Twitter user. While the troll received a caution from Sussex Police, Price took further measures by putting the evidence forward to the Commons Petitions Committee.
By introducing a campaign to launch a criminal offence titled 'Harvey's Law' (named after her son), Price has gained support from politicians such as Tory MP John Whittingdale and Labour MP Stella Creasy. She has also expressed a desire to see the creation of a register of online law offenders.
In a recent press release, Prime Minister Theresa May announced a plan "to make the UK the safest place to be online". Details indicated that the Government plans to introduce a social media code of practice this year. The Law Commission is also set to launch a review into the laws regarding offensive online communications and make sure that they protect citizens from dangerously offensive behaviour on the internet.