Oct 142017
 

Police arresting nine people a day in fight against web trolls

In Britain, you can actually be arrested for posting comments that “cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another.”

Once again: you can be arrested for annoying someone. Couple that with the BritGuvs determination to crack down on vaguely-defined “far right” speech online, and hoo boy, glad I’ve got that First Amendment thing. Here, when some idiot troll starts causing annoyance, I can simply hit the “ban user” button and the problem is solved. Or, heck, simply ignore them. But in Britain? Call the cops, I guess, someone said something I didn’t like.

No, no, no way in hell that this sort of system could *ever* be abused, nosiree.

An interesting summary of some of the many laws regarding speech and computers in the UK includes a paragraph on the communications Act of 2003:

Sending by means of the Internet a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or sending a false message by means of or persistently making use of the Internet for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety is guilty of an offence liable, on conviction, to imprisonment. This wording is important because an offence is complete as soon as the message has been sent: there is no need to prove any intent or purpose.

Say, that’s neat. You can be arrested and sentenced to imprisonment for annoying someone without even having intended to.

Sadly, even Utah isn’t immune from the scourge of the easily offended delicate snowflake. The local news last night had a story about a guy who set up a Halloween display (Halloween is *big* in Utah… I’d say it’s right up there with Christmas in terms of interest, enthusiasm and maybe even money). His original display? I larfed my keister off. Because it’s funny, that’s why:

Having just watched “The Purge: Election Day” less than a week ago, I got the gag. But apparently there are a lot of humorless would-be British-style speechcops out there in Facebookland, and even in the guys own neighborhood.

Utah man says his ‘purge and purify’ Halloween sign isn’t racist or political

People saw the “MAGA” and promptly assumed that the homeowner was promoting racist violence. Oy.

As a result of the online and IRL backlash, the homeowner changed the display, rewording to to be more accurate to the tagline of the movie:

As sad as this tale was here in Utah, imagine if the guy had been living under British laws. He could have *easily* been arrested, especially since the people who were offended – or at least who pretended to be – claimed that the message was right wing.

FFS. If you can’t have fun with murder and bloodshed and horror on Halloween… what *can* you have fun with?

Still, the laws are what they are. One can hope that people in Britainland will start overloading the police with complaints about *everything* online that annoys them. How about online photos of Communist mass murdering psychopaths on Irish postage stamps? Surely that’s annoying to any Brit who suffered directly or indirectly at the hands of communism.

 Posted by at 12:09 pm
  • John B

    I wonder what would happen in the U.K. if one were to call up the police and complain ” I find old people offensive; arrest the Queen.”

    • Scottlowther

      One would probably be arrested for annoying the police.

      Making “saying something annoying” into an arrestable offense is the perfect catch-all to arrest *anybody.*

      • robunos20

        Relax, you can still make snarky comments about us Ingylanders; this law is targeted at Cyberbullying.
        The PDF in the second link you posted is prepared by a local authority for issue to schools, to advise them of their duties under this law, as should an offence be committed using the school’s computer network, the school could be deemed partly responsible . . .

  • Polaris1

    No that’s not fascist at all. Why would anybody think so ?

  • FelixA9

    Well 1984 was set over there.

    • AndrewN

      And so was V for Vendetta, we’re not finished yet.

  • Michael the Somewhat Civilized

    If a non-Briton posts something that offends a Briton, will the local British constabulary have the non-Briton arrested in their home country, to be shipped to Britain for trial?

    • Scottlowther

      You wouldn’t think so, if you lived in a rational world. However, it would not be surprising if the Brits did try to extradite a non-Brit for doing just that. I’d imagine they’d reserve that process for more extreme cases… some Canuck, say, sending repeated trolling messages directly to some British recipient. They’d want the first examples to be cases where rational people would look at the case and agree… someone actually harassing a Brit, sending messages telling them to kill themselves, that sot of thing. Doing so opens the door, makes the concept easier to accept. If their first target is a Singaporean telling Brits that their food is awful that’d be easy to mock.

    • Paul451

      They have extradited Britons to the US for exporting chemicals that were completely legal under British law (and where the person went out of their way to obey UK law; licence, get export permits, send customer info to anti-terrorist police, etc), but were illegal to import under the law of a specific US state that Brit business owner had never been to.

  • Peter Hanely

    Grossly offensive, like the lying democrat ads youtube kept feeding me after I complained, that drove me to install an ad blocker ahead of last November’s election?

  • Paul451

    Pedantically,

    “Sending by means of the Internet a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or sending a false message by means of or persistently making use of the Internet for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety is guilty of an offence liable, on conviction, to imprisonment. This wording is important because an offence is complete as soon as the message has been sent: there is no need to prove any intent or purpose.”

    You can be arrested and sentenced to imprisonment for annoying someone without even having intended to.

    It’s clear that the last line in the quoted text refers to the first part of the law: offensive/obscene/menacing. The second part requires both that the message be false and be intended to cause the effect.

    The first part doesn’t allow the recipient’s opinion to determine whether the message was “grossly offensive”, etc, but the jury. The annoyance part specifically requires demonstration of a purposeful act by the accused, whether or not the recipient was annoyed/etc. For the second part, only the intent of the sender matters. For the first part, only the nature of the content matters. In neither case does the recipient’s opinion or reaction matter.

    I’m not saying it’s a good law, Britain has form with these kinds of speech-attacking laws, but it’s not what you are saying.

  • Paul451

    “Sending by means of the Internet a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or sending a false message by means of or persistently making use of the Internet for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety is guilty of an offence liable, on conviction, to imprisonment. This wording is important because an offence is complete as soon as the message has been sent: there is no need to prove any intent or purpose.”

    That last line is nonsense. Even in their own description of the Act, it uses the word “purpose”.

    The first part doesn’t require purpose, but the assessment of offensive/obscene/menacing is solely in the eyes of the jury, not the recipient of the message. The second part requires both that sender knows their message to be false, and that their purpose is to annoy/etc. For the second part, only the intent of the sender matters. For the first part, only the content.

    I’m not saying it’s a good law (“indecent”?), the UK really has form when it comes to speech-attacking laws, just that it’s not what you said.

    UK Communications Act 2013, Chapter 21, Part 1

    S.127 Improper use of public electronic communications network

    (1) A person is guilty of an offence if he —
    (a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or
    (b) causes any such message or matter to be so sent.

    (2) A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he —
    (a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,
    (b) causes such a message to be sent; or
    (c) persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.

    (3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.