An Internet trolling expert and general election candidate has demanded justice for two young people affected by trolling.
Dzon, known professionally as Jonathan Bishop, says that Matthew Woods and Georgia Varley deserve justice and that the incidents of trolling relating them were wrongly handled.
20-year-old Matthew Woods of Eaves Lane, Chorley, was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail in 2012 for reposting offensive jokes from Sickipedia about Madeline McCann and April Jones. Dzon says his treatment was unfair. “Had the current CPS guidance been applied in Matthew Woods’s case then he would not have been convicted,” he said. “Matthew Woods only intended for his friends to see those offensive jokes and not the families, so under new rules he would not be prosecuted.
“In reality the law these rules are based on were thrown out the window in Matthew Woods’s case, with his conviction being down to media and public pressure and not the facts of the case.”
Georgia Varley, from Wallasey, was 16 when her memorial website was ransacked by trolls, following her death at Liverpool James Street station in 2011. Her local MP, Steve Rotheram, said that the law could not deal with social media crimes as it was made prior to Twitter and Facebook. Dzon disagrees. “The Malicious Communications Act 1988 was used to prosecute Sean Duffy when he trolled the memorial page of Natasha MacBryde who died at 15, following death at a railway station also,” he said. “It is pure political opportunism to deny Georgia Varley’s family the rights Natasha MacBryde’s had, and Steve Rotheram should be ashamed to put his career ahead of justice for young people and their families.”
When Georgia Varley died Steve Rotheram said: “It is difficult to prosecute because trolling is a new phenomenon and does not fall under any offence which already exists.” Since that time the Malicious Communications Act 1988, Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and Communications Act 2003 have all been used to deal with trolling. Dzon said Steve Rotheram is out of touch. “Trolling is just the current term for the posting of Internet abuse, which was call flaming in the 1990s and cyber-bullying in the 2002, and was first outlawed with the Telecommunications Act 1984,” he said. “In fact trolling should refer to the posting of provocative messages, but it is only by use, or misuse, by the media that the term has changed.“
An Internet trolling expert and general election candidate has thrown his weight behind the Lib Dems’ plans for a Digital Rights Bill, but says youth rights should be a core feature.
The Pluralist Party candidate for Liverpool Walton, Dzon, known professionally as Jonathan Bishop, says he fully supports Liberal Democrat proposals for a Digital Rights Bill. “Whilst as a trolling expert I know that current laws are good enough to protect rights to free speech and from Internet abuse, a new law to set out case law and CPS best practice in black and white will stop the misuse and lack of use of current legislation,” he said. “It is essential that at the heart of this bill that youth rights are protected, as all too often it is young people that are prosecuted and convicted for trolling, even though if case law like DPP v Chambers were applied they would be found innocent.
“A new Digital Rights Bill should insert into existing trolling law like the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and Malicious Communications Act 1988 prescribed defences against prosecution based on what is set out in DPP v Chambers, DPP v Collins, DPP v Connolly and the DPP’s guidance on offences arising out of social media, so that only those incidents of trolling that are illegal are prosecute whereas those that are free speech are not.”
Nick Clegg is leader of the Liberal Democrats who has proposed the Digital Rights Bill. “The way in which we work, socialise, buy products and use services has changed at lightning speed since the digital revolution,” he said. “However government and politicians have responded at snail’s pace, and failed to ensure the rights of consumers, businesses, journalists and children are protected in the online world.
“Our Digital Rights Bill will finally enshrine into law our rights as citizens of this country to privacy, to stop information about us being abused online, and to protect our right to freedom of speech.”
Lib Dem proposals include a Code of Practice for online services who would by law have to correct information about members of the public where it is inaccurate or defamatory and enshrine in law the responsibility of government to defend the free press, including the rights of journalists and citizen journalists to express their views freely online.
Google has settled the dispute between it and businessman, Daniel Hegglin, who brought legal action against the mere conduit search engine provider in the UK High Court.
Google’s representative, Antony White QC told the court: “Google has considerable sympathy for Mr Hegglin in what is an exceptional case of internet trolling in terms of its prominence and volume.
“Google provides search services to millions of people and cannot be responsible for policing internet content.
“It will however continue to apply its procedures that have been developed to assist with the removal of content which breaches applicable local laws.”
Daniel Hegglin’s counsel, Hugh Tomlinson QC, said that Google had made “significant efforts” to remove abusive comments from the search results it is a mere conduit of. He said: “Whilst I am not in a position to disclose the details, I am pleased to report that the parties have now settled the matter.
“The settlement includes significant efforts on Google’s part to remove the abusive material from Google hosted websites and from its search results.“
On 20 November 2014, the House of Lords is scheduled to debate the following motion: “that this House takes note of the impact of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on children’s and young people’s online and digital interactions.”
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was brought into force in the UK in 1992. The Convention sets out a number of rights regarding children and their wellbeing, and forms the basis for much of the work of UNICEF. In light of the growth of the internet and digital technologies over the past couple of decades, UNICEF has recently published a number of reports discussing how these mediums could impact upon children’s rights or safety. This was also considered by the UK Government in its review of its performance in relation to the Convention.
Three of the key risks that have been identified by the UK Government, and by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, in relation to children’s online activity are:
cyberbullying and social network misuse;
access to inappropriate content.
Ofcom has reported that, in 2013, 37 percent of those aged 5 to 7 used the internet every day, compared to 62 percent of 8 to 11 year olds and 81 percent of 12 to 15 year olds.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre that is part of the National Crime Agency has estimated that there were around 50,000 individuals involved in the downloading or sharing of indecent images of children during 2012.
Childline reported that they had received 4,500 reports of a child being bullied online in 2012/13.
Authority for Television On Demand estimated that 473,000 6 to 17 year-olds accessed an adult website in December 2013.
Chris Evans, the Labour MP for Islwyn in Wales has put pressure on the UK Government to take forward measures on Internet trolling and cyberbullying, which were proposed by Angie Bray MP in the Spring.
Speaking on behalf of the Home Secretary, Michael Penning, the Minister of State in the Home Office told Chris Evans that the government was taking steps to make the changes. “The sending of abusive messages or material online can cause absolute misery for victims and the Government recognises the need to make sure that people who commit these awful crimes are properly punished,” he said. “Changes to the law included in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill will mean that people who target others with abusive or offensive material, including internet trolls, will face up to two years in prison and the police will have more time to investigate cases.
“The Secretary of State for Justice has not had any discussions to date with social media companies about legislative proposals to tackle internet trolling.
“However, as one of the joint chairs of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, I have discussed and fed the Government’s views in to a range of internet safety issues with social media companies and others.“
A Liverpool man has been convicted at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court for sending a racist message to a Member of Parliament.
Garron Helm, 21, admitted sending an offensive, indecent or obscene message to Luciana Berger, who is the UK Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree. “I hope this case serves as an encouragement to others to report hate crime whenever it rears its ugly head,” she said.
The racist message, sent via Twitter, has been described as “anti-Semitic,” which is a term used to describe remarks made against Jews or Arabs that is of a racist or religiously discriminatory manner.
The UK Member of Parliament for Liverpool Walton, Steve Rotheram, has reacted negatively to the decision of the UK Government to accept Angie Bray’s amendment to the Malicious Communications Act 1988.
Angie Bray, the Conservative MP for Ealing, has won the support of Justice Minister Chris Graying for the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to amend the law so Internet trolling offences can be heard in the Crown Court and not just the Magistrates Court.
Steve Rotheram opportunistically started campaigning on trolling when one of his constituents was trolled on Facebook. Rotheram said that the laws were not tough enough to deal with the trolling of late teenager, Georgia Varley, even though the Malicious Communications Act 1988 had already been used on the troll of Natasha MacBryde, who died and was trolled in similar circumstances.
Rotheram appeared gutted it was Angie Bray that was listened to over him. “I don’t believe him (Grayling) because two-and-half-years ago when I first brought up internet trolling in the House of Commons no-one was interested, and with the Home Office minister, no-one was interested,” Rotheram said. “Because the issue is now high profile because of certain things that have happened, the government has looked for a bandwagon to jump on.
“I’d welcome it if it’s genuinely true and there is a will within government to try and tackle this issue.”
Internet trolling expert, Jonathan Bishop, who is known as Dzon in politics, said the news shows Rotheram’s true stance. “It is Steve Rotheram that jumped on the bandwagon even though I and other experts told him the laws were strong enough,” he said. “Chris Grayling has scuppered any chance Steve Rotheram has to milk trolling for all the publicity he can get out of it, and he doesn’t like it he’s getting no credit for something he formally never proposed.“
Home Secretary Theresa May has defended government snooping on data communications between the UK and other countries. May, who was speaking to a parliamentary inquiry, said that the UK government is doing nothing that is not being done by mega corporations like Google. “If you are searching for the needle in the haystack, you have to have a haystack in the first place,” she said. “I think there is – not a contract entered into – but an unwritten agreement between the individual and the state that the state is going to do everything they can to keep them safe and secure.”
Internet trolling expert, Jonathan Bishop, says that data retention is important, but technology needs to advance to protect civil liberties. “It is not unreasonable for the government to seek to find the ‘needles in a haystack’ referred to by the Home Secretary,” he said. “But there needs to be technology developed that will ensure only the data of suspects is accessed and not those who abide by the law.
“The concept of a national DNA database is not undesirable, for instance, but database technology needs to advance so that instead of treating everyone as a suspect by searching through database entries, only the record for the suspect concerned is accessed.“
Peter Nunn, 33, of Bristol, was found guilty of sending messages of a grossly offensive, indecent or menacing character to Stella Creasy MP, who was part of a campaign calling for less men on banknotes.
Recently celebrities have been retweeting offensive messages sent to them on Twitter. Stan Collymore for instance retweeted messages containing the n-word, but faced no prosecution. Caroline Criado-Perez re-posted numerous misandrist tweets, but faced no prosecution either.
Peter Nunn believed the verdict was unjust. “It is a sad day for free speech. I will be appealing,” he said. Liverpool Walton MP Steve Rotheram is a colleague of Stella Creasy. “We all know that parliamentarians are pachyderms, with little or no feeling, so it (trolling) should not bother us,” he said.
Sentencing of Nunn has been adjourned until 29 September 2014.
Professor Mary Beard has revealed that she befriended one of the people who trolled her with sexist and misogynistic abuse.
The historian was abused on Twitter following the broadcast of a Question Time program she pre-recorded. But as she explains, one of the people who trolled her has his messages appear high in the search engine rankings got in touch with her to be apologetic. “He is going to find it hard to get a job, because as soon as you Google his name that (his post) is what comes up,” she said. “And although he was a very silly, injudicious, and at that moment not very pleasant young guy, I don’t actually think one tweet should ruin your job prospects.”
Internet trolling expert, Jonathan Bishop, says Beard should be seen as a role model from celebrity trolling victims. “Mary Beard should be held in high esteem for allowing one of her trolls to make a sincere apology,” he said. “As we saw with Caroline Criado-Perez, some feminists seem obsessed with the idea that men are out to get them and are happy to see people prosecuted, but Mary Beard has shown that restitution is better than retribution, and this should be seen as a model for all celebrity troll callers.
“Feminists are not going to change prejudices against women by attacking people, but instead they must be persuasive and able to understand where others are coming from.“