Trolls setting up fake social media accounts in England and Wales to abuse others online could face charges under new guidelines being proposed by the Crown Prosecution Service.
The new advice being drawn up for prosecutors means people who set up fake profiles to damage or embarrass another person could be committing offences such as grossly offensive communication or harassment, the CPS said in a statement.
“Offenders can mistakenly think that by using false online profiles and creating websites under a false name their offences are untraceable,” says Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions. “Thankfully this is not the case and an online footprint will be left by the offender.”
The guidelines also advise prosecutors about revenge porn and other controlling or coercive behaviour on social media.
“Worryingly, we have seen an increase in the use of cyber-enabled crime in cases related to violence against women and girls,” Saunders said.
Cases like the ones they’ve outlined have been prosecuted under various other pieces of legislation, such as the Communications Act 2003 and the Malicious Communications Act 1988. But the CPS hopes the new changes will give clear and appropriate advice to prosecutors so that offenders are brought to justice.
Imposter or fake accounts are not allowed on Facebook. If someone has created an account purporting to be you, the social network will investigate the activity once the activity is reported.
Impersonating someone else is also a violation of Twitter’s rules. The company says that accounts portraying others in a confusing or deceptive manner can be permanently suspended under its impersonation policy, though users are allowed to create parody, commentary or fan accounts, which fall under a separate policy.
The CPS is holding a six-week consultation period on the new guidelines.
Quotation from the CPS guidelines:
“The act of setting up a false social networking account or website, or the creation of a false or offensive profile or alias could amount to a criminal offence, depending on the circumstances.”
#1: Cyber bullying and other online harassment does occur and it is not acceptable, but should the government be able to proactively regulate your online presence? Should having a fake Facebook profile be a criminal offense similar to a fake ID?
#2: How should the justice and law system update their operations to keep up with new trends occurring in Social Media?
#3: How does this relate to our right to privacy and where can it go from here? If this is passed in Britain will the US follow suite?