News has come out that the UK Government plans to introduce a bill that allows what is dubbed “cyberbullying jail time” when criminals convicted of text message abuse or cyberbullying can face up to two years imprisonment.
This comes within an amendment to the criminal justice bill supported by the British Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling which aims to combat internet trolls that verbally abuse or sexually harass individuals on the internet or via mobile phones in England and Wales.
The amendment suggests bigger penalties of up to two years in prison and is expected to be approved at Westminster this year.
This comes on the heels of news breaking out in January of the first “cyberbullying jail time” when two youth got sentenced for sending abusive messages on Twitter to feminist campaigner, Caroline Criado-Perez.
When it comes to “cyberbullying jail time”, the New Zealand Justice Minister announced in 2013 the submission of the Harmful Digital Communications Bill which aims to crack down on bullying via social networking, email, mobile phones, and websites.
This New Zealand bill creates a new criminal offence for sending messages or posting material online with the intent to cause harm – including threatening and offensive messages, harassment, damaging rumours, and invasive photographs – with penalties of up to three months imprisonment or a considerable fine.
It also creates a new offence of incitement to commit suicide – even in situations when a person does not attempt to take their life – punishable by up to three years in jail. This would come helpful in cases of bullying where teens and children sometimes attempt to commit suicide as a result of not being able to cope with continuous cyberbullying or school bullying.
The bill, when approved, would also create a new agency and enforcement regime as the first port of call for complaints, which will be able to contact service providers like Twitter and Facebook to request information be removed.
Serious complaints can head to court, which will have the power to issue remedies such as take-down orders and cease-and-desist notices.
The law relating to website hosts will be clarified, and it will be easier for people to request harmful content to be removed. Website hosts could face legal action if they fail to remove the content.