Social media has been hitting the headlines again. Or to be more accurate, the things which people write on social media posts. Although #BeKind might be the hashtag of the moment, it won’t be long until people forget about being nicer to each other on Instagram, and many ho back to their old habits. Despite what many people think, the internet isn’t a space where you can do what you want, or say what you want. If you are prosecuted by the police for a posting on social media this could resurface in the future if you apply for a disclosure check in connection with a job or voluntary position.
Outdated Legislation ad Criminal Offences
The main issue in the UK is that the laws which are used to prosecute people who post abuse or make threats online are very out of date. The Malicious Communications Act dates back to 1988, a time where the internet hadn’t been invented. The more up to date law is the Communications Act of 2003, which again pre-dates most social media sites. However, these laws do legislate against things like promoting terrorist groups online, making threats against individuals, harassing people or identifying someone whose identity a court has ordered be kept secret.
If you commit offences and are prosecuted under this legislation, the offence will appear on your criminal record. The same rules in terms of convictions being spent after a rehabilitation period apply as with any other type of conviction. The length of the rehabilitation period will depend on the type of offence, the length of sentence and the age of the person at the time of the offence.
Currently the controversial topic of conversation is the recording of “non-crime hate incidents” on the police computer. This happens when someone complains to the police about something they’ve seen on Twitter, Instagram or other social media sites. The person complaining doesn’t have to be the person the post is directed at. The police investigate, and discover that no law has been broken with the posting. However, the person who made the posting is given a formal reminder not to do it again.
The problem with all of this is the recording of the incidents on the police computer. If someone needs an enhanced disclosure for work, then the police look not only at past convictions and cautions, but at other intelligence on the database too. This could include information about these non-crimes.
Social Media Advice
The clear advice from all concerned is to be careful about what you write and post on the internet. You can be held accountable for what you write or share just as you could be for saying things to someone’s face. Furthermore, it’s now common practice for employers to look at the social media sites of job applicants, and they’re not going to be impressed by abusive or offensive posts. Our best advice is to stick to the grandmother rule. Would you share that picture or say that tweet out loud to your granny? No? Then don’t post it.