Does there need to be a specific law in the UK that makes cyber-bullying illegal?
By Alan Bullion
Question from the Sevenoaks Chronicle/Kent Live
This is the first response published on February 22 in a series of articles where local political parties were asked to contribute their views on a topical Talking Point of the day:
"There is no specific law in the UK that makes cyberbullying illegal, does this need to be addressed?"
Answer from Cllr. Tony Clayton:
Bullying behaviour that's illegal in person, on the phone or in writing, should be illegal if done online. Digital isn't different. It's the same for bullying, threats or intimidation, whether it's personal or if it's based on somebody's race, gender, sexuality, nationality or religion.
Today the law is a mess. We need reform so that criminal liability for comments made on social media, or on the phone or to people physically present, is the same. Laws on liability for threatening words and behaviour under the Public Order Act, the Malicious Communications Act and the Communications Act should be aligned. We need a single rule to apply to all.
We strongly support free speech so we won't censor legitimate debate. But the increasing amount of cyber-bullying does mean we need clear rules.
Use of social media to incite others to bully a victim is too easy. It can wreck people's personal and working relationships. The same principle of equal treatment online should apply to incitement offences.
"Revenge porn" - posting intimate photos online - is particularly vicious, and must be tackled. It should be a criminal offence for an individual to disclose sexual images of another identifiable person when they know that the person shown did not consent to it.
Systems to take down material quickly when offences like these happen are getting more effective. Germany now fines big internet firms which don't act quickly to remove such postings.
We should also invest more in education for young people to protect against bullying, to manage their private information, to stay safe on line and to report crimes. Many schools have done great work and we want to build on the best.
And we need to spread similar standards for safe cyberspace across Europe, the US, and the world. The internet doesn't recognise national borders!
If you've been affected by cyber-bullying, find out more at:
- recommended link from the Citizens Advice website for people looking for help.
Councillor Tony Clayton, Sevenoaks Liberal Democrats