back to article British trolls to face 'tougher penalties' over online abuse

The Tory-led government is supporting calls for more stringent legislation to tackle trolls who hurl abuse at others online in England and Wales. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling backed Conservative MP Angie Bray's demands for changes to the law on Monday. "Just tabled amendment to Criminal Justice Bill to make life just a …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...just abit harder"

    So, abit harder, but not asus harder or biostar harder?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Does this mean that the entire El Reg data base will be arrested and locked up?

      Let's be honest, there isn't a person on here who has not offended someone else.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        "Let's be honest, there isn't a person on here who has not offended someone else."

        Fuck you. I haven't.

        1. Lyndon Hills 1

          You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.

          -- Victor Hugo/1845

  2. TrishaD

    Political Posturing

    I think that 6 months in the slammer is a perfectly appropriate maximum punishment and that increasing the penalty wont make the slightest difference - if someone's dumb enough to risk six months, they're probably dumb enough to risk a year or so.

    This is political posturing

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Political Posturing

      For a "crime" that would be perfectly legal if they had stood outside parliament and shouted it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Political Posturing

        > For a "crime" that would be perfectly legal if they had stood outside parliament and shouted it?

        There is a difference in law between speech aimed at intimidation or offering violence mental or physical. This amounts to nothing less than blackmail which is also against the law in that the referenced case was about threats of violence against people unless they desist in a particular lawful action.

        It is difficult walking the line between free speech and what most people would deem a punishable offence. As ever, the obvious cases are obvious, the grey areas are grey and up for debate.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Political Posturing

      Sounds like the Breakfast Club:

      Richard Vernon: You're not fooling anyone, Bender. The next screw that falls out will be you.

      John Bender: Eat my shorts.

      Richard Vernon: What was that?

      John Bender: Eat... My... Shorts.

      Richard Vernon: You just bought yourself another Saturday.

      John Bender: Ooh, I'm crushed.

      Richard Vernon: You just bought one more.

      John Bender: Well I'm free the Saturday after that. Beyond that, I'm going to have to check my calendar.

      Richard Vernon: Good, cause it's going to be filled. We'll keep going. You want another one? Just say the word say it. Instead of going to prison you'll come here. Are you through?

      John Bender: No.

      Richard Vernon: I'm doing society a favor.

      John Bender: So?

      Richard Vernon: That's another one right now! I've got you for the rest of your natural born life if you don't watch your step. You want another one?

      John Bender: Yes.

      Richard Vernon: You got it! You got another one right there! That's another one pal!

      Claire Standish: Cut it out!

      Richard Vernon: You through?

      John Bender: Not even close bud!

      Richard Vernon: Good! You got one more right there!

      John Bender: You really think I give a shit?

      Richard Vernon: Another! You through?

      John Bender: How many is that?

      Brian Johnson: That's seven including when we first came in and you asked Mr. Vernon whether Barry Manilow knew that he raided his closet.

      Richard Vernon: Now it's eight. You stay out of this.

      Brian Johnson: Excuse me sir, it's seven.

  3. sandman


    Just as we're meant to clearing room in our prisons by stopping jailing BBC licence fee payers we can fill those vacant slots with trolls. That's what I call joined-up policy ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Serendipitous

      Are they really jailing BBC licence fee payers? I think should stop doing that.

      1. DrBobMatthews

        Re: Serendipitous

        They should jail the BBC board for issuing a licence under false pretences, i.e failing to provide programs to a minimum standard as advertised, and censoring news items that are critical of the government.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just to say, in my local paper the other day, a bloke got a very small fine and an anger management course for pushing his pregnant girlfriend to the floor and kicking her. In this context, how do people go to jail for calling people names on twitter? Are priorities skewed at all, with regards sentences? Is 'trolling' (yes, I know) newsworthy at the moment, whereas good old fashioned violent crime is a bit old hat? Are there more votes in this particular bandwagon? Are politicos, shallow, predictable, narcissistic glory hunters?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is a bear Catholic? Does the Pope... wait, hang on a minute...

    2. John Bailey

      Did you really need to ask so many rhetorical questions?

    3. JP19

      "Are there more votes in this particular bandwagon?"

      Those playing the politically correct game think so. Perhaps it is time for the spectators to tell them they are wrong.

  5. Banksy


    Oh noes, someone on the Interwebs hurt my feelings. Put them in jail!

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      El Reg needs to change our comment voting options on these pages. We need buttons for - "Upvote Post", "Downvote Post", "Report Abuse", and the new "Prosecute and Jail for 6 Months" button.

      Since I love to troll the fanbois, should I just go ahead and report for my 6-month term?

      1. Jedit

        "the new "Prosecute and Jail for 6 Months" button."

        We already have a "Reply" button.

  6. Stevie Silver badge


    The Shape Of Posts To Come:

    I say old chap, it occurs to me that you my dear sir are an extremely unintelligent member of the human race as a whole, and furthermore I might venture to suggest your choice of wardrobe is deficient in many key areas judged by one's peers to be of more than passing importance in the current fashion.

    Not only that, I cannot overstate the physical hideousness of your visage, and the odour arising from your vicinity is enough to drop a horse at ten paces. I took the liberty of polling a few mutual acquaintances and I'm afraid we all concur in the repugnance in which we hold your good self.

    In short, sir, you embody all the qualities associated with what I believe is termed "teh luzer" and I, and I venture to suggest a good many of the other people who have had the misfortune to meet you in person, would be greatly obliged if you would vacate the country as soon as is humanly possible and move somewhere where Standards are accommodatingly lower than those that pertain here and now.

    I remain sir,

    Yr, obt. svt.


    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      Well sir you are a practicing Homo-sapien, you matriculated with young women at college and your sister is a thespian. I believe you also practiced celibacy as a teenager.

      1. James O'Shea

        Re: Bah!

        I'm a practicing Homo neanderthalensis, Or so I've been told, many times.

        And there weren't nearly enough young women at college.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here's hoping they sort out the terminology beforehand

    1. Graham Marsden

      That's a good one...

      ... tell us another!

      Parliament sees its job as passing the laws and then leaving it to the Courts to decide the actual details.

  8. SnakeChisler

    I know what a Troll is as do those who frequent message boards and you just ignore it, the one's to get worried about are the Stalkers and Psycho's and there's ton's of laws around to lock them up already.

    Why do politicians want to make up a new law for a perceived problem that doesn't exist and add another layer of complexity to an already overburdened legal system. You've already got Judges locking people up over basically a bar room rant that happens to make its way on twitter like the Robin Hood Airport incident. What common sense you cry!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the one's to get worried about are the Stalkers and Psycho's and there's ton's of laws around to lock them up already

      Those would be the laws which the Police of our once great and civilised land can't be bothered to enforce would they? I ask this as an ex-stalkee who has encountered for oneself the utter apathy of the fuzz to reports of criminal behaviour on the parts of some of the nasty shitty little people which comprise at least a fair proportion of the population of this sceptered green isle.

      My advice is if you're being stalked, don't bother calling the Police, who are only going to advise you to try and hide away from the scum, deal with it yourself... get vicious, get violent, and accept that doing so will cost you, but that whatever the cost is you must accept the duty (we all have a duty to civilised society) of making sure your stalker gets what they will no doubt have spent countless hours earning.

      1. NotWorkAdmin

        @ obnoxiousGit

        Seems to me you're strengthening the argument. If the Police already have more laws to enforce than they have time to deal with, what the hell is the point of making more?

      2. ecofeco Silver badge

        Is this a trick question?

        It's the job of all self-important people to make things more complicated in the name of "look at me, I'm Doing Something and therefore Important."

        And it's not just politicians, but a disease that affects every aspect of the human race.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Why do politicians want to make up a new law for a perceived problem that doesn't exist and add another layer of complexity to an already overburdened legal system. You've already got Judges locking people up over basically a bar room rant that happens to make its way on twitter like the Robin Hood Airport incident. What common sense you cry!

      Is this a serious question? Ok.... I won't troll, I'll give you the short answer.... Because this makes them of the "I'm thinking of the children" brigade and helps get them re-elected. Everyone gets a warm-fuzzy from such crap. On the other hand, full prisons keep the prison guards' union happy and gainfully employed.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    The Tories

    Are complete w@nk3rs

    1. mrweekender

      Re: The Tories

      Are complete fucktards....

    2. DrBobMatthews

      Re: The Tories

      They are not even as good as that.

  10. David Pollard

    Tuff? When I were a lad ...

    ... there were a lass on't Reg forum by't name a Sarah Bee. She'd sort 'em an' noa mistake.

  11. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    As they used to say in the Navy - if you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined. Don't like what they say about you on Facepuke? - don't log in....

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well...

      " they used to say in the Navy - if you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined."

      As an American who remembers the war of 1812, I'm not impressed with that reasoning...

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: Well...

        Don't let that regrettable matter stand between us - it was all French fault anyway.

  12. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Won't happen: Costs

    Right, 6 months in the nick on Her Majesty's delegated instructions costing, say, £10,000 a week, 26 weeks makes for £260,000.

    On the other hand having court costs, legal fees and say a fine could mean at a guess a wrap across the knuckles costing you £6,000?

    Neither represents justice if course.

  13. Joe Montana

    Toughen up?

    It's the so called "victims" that need to toughen up...

    What ever happened to "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me". We were always taught to ignore verbal/written taunting in school as it was harmless, and the same with anything said online - someone insults you, insult them back or ignore them. It's not worth expending any effort, if the most someone can do is write something offensive about you from behind a computer screen then they really are utterly harmless.

    1. Mike Moyle

      Re: Toughen up?

      This is called "blaming the victim", and most civilized people consider it really bad form. It says that trolling/stalking is -- if not actually acceptable (although it does strongly IMPLY that it is) -- at least sufficiently commonplace as to be unexceptional.

      The assumption seems to be the classic "If they don't know that it bothers you, they'll stop doing it," claptrap. The reality is that, in many cases, if trolls, bullies, and similar wastes of oxygen don't get the reaction that they want, their response is often to push harder. There is a limit to how much the target of an attack should HAVE to "toughen up" when the interconnected nature of our world today means that, where once a lone hater was just that -- alone and relatively harmless -- now the first shot, if repeated in the appropriate venue, can be like throwing chum into the water, drawing others to the attack. I think that we can ALL think of a few venues whose denizens practically LIVE for a good bit of fresh meat to attack for no other reason than for trolling's own sweet sake.

      Further, beyond a certain point, the common assumption that "where there's smoke, there's fire" kicks in in the public mind when there are repeated attacks with no response from the victim (and giving no response is, after all, the tactic that "toughen up" requires). Add this to the apparently common practice today of potential employers, romantic partners, etc., doing an online search of a new prospect and finding page on page of unanswered falsehoods with no countervailing arguments and, I think, you can see that simply "toughening up" and "not letting them know that it bothers you" can be worse than useless.

      1. DrBobMatthews

        Re: Toughen up?

        The answer of course i not to use Face Ache or Twatter in the first place, there is something seriously wrong with a persons self worth if the only way he /she seeks to improve their self worth is to bore another group with the same deficiencies in the brain department of the minutiae of their sad boring life. Interesting to note that most politicians who collectively have the intelligence of a pregnant goldfish drowning in petrol are great fans of Twatter,probably because they talk tosh day in day out rather than doing or proposing something useful.

    2. Corinne

      Re: Toughen up?

      A rape threat is a terrifying thing for a woman, it's not the kind of thing that can just be ignored! Always looking over your shoulder, having to adjust all your normal behaviour to be on the defensive "just in case". Even ending up not daring to step out of your own house because some psycho is stalking you.

      Or are you one of those guys who think women should be covered up at all times because daring to show 2 inches of leg above the knee, or wearing makeup & heels (expected in many occupations) means they are "asking for it"? Or one of the guys who think that if a woman attends a fan convention then sexual harassment & groping should just be accepted?

      1. bigtimehustler

        Re: Toughen up?

        This is all about context though, there are serious threats which of course should be punished and ones which are clearly never going to be carried out. Most people can tell the difference between the two. Police however, do not seem to posses any sense and you will end up with ludicrous cases presented to the court which were in no way really threatening to an average person of good sense.

      2. DropBear

        Re: Toughen up?

        Tell you what, if we're talking about a credible threat formulated explicitly as "I intend to do XYZ to you", sure, by all means. But if we're talking about anything and everything someone declares "feeling threatened by" - hell no. Just... no.

      3. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Toughen up?

        Indeed, Corinne has got it right. Not all of us are talking about the same things in this thread. The politicos have found out that there's something called "Trolling", and they've misidentified it. That word doesn't mean what they think it means. Trolling, in the old Usenet usage, was deliberately trying to get a reaction from someone by being controversial, mostly by adopting a ridiculous position (argumentative position, not anatomical!). Calling people names is the lowest form of the art, hardly worthy of the title.

        Threatening people's lives, welfare and families, though, is certainly not Trolling by the original definition, and it doesn't need a new word, there are perfectly good ones already. Furthermore, I'm quite happy if people who do it (online, offline, by telephone, letter, fax or brick through the window) meet with criminal penalties.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Toughen up?

          Indeed, Corinne has got it right. Not all of us are talking about the same things in this thread.

          You're making the mistake of believing a victim (target) has to make some kind of judgement of those who attack him/her.

          Frankly as someone who others were stupid enough to identify as a viable target for such threats, I have no qualms about those individuals being considered as real targets, for exactly the kind of actions which were made against mine and my childrens lives. I don't care if they thought they were just having a laugh... because it was made crystal clear from the outset, that it wasn't fucking funny.

          My old man taught me a lesson when I was a child... it was the one about not picking fights, because "there is always someone who is harder than you, and sooner or later if you go looking for it, you are going to meet him. When you meet him he isn't going to be a reasonable chap... because he doesn't have to be any more reasonable than the stupid little prick who thought it would be fun to harm him".

          Unfortunately some fathers seem to miss teaching their children that behaving like a c*nt towards others can have you treated like a c*nt by those others, and so the human race is doomed to spend eternity with knobs hurting others for fun, until one of those they hurt for fun turns out to be harder and far less reasonable than the abuser thinks they should be.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Toughen up?

      It's not about insults, it's about the stalkers and psychos.

      You did read the article, right?

  14. Zog_but_not_the_first

    Best solution

    Give 'em community service under a bridge.

  15. Enrico Vanni

    More politician's logic. Something must be done, here's something. Whether this is belying the idea that UK governments still have power when in reality most laws are now dictated by the EU and all parliament has left is the ability to tinker around the edges and enact multiple laws for the same few offences it still has jurisdiction over, or they are just playing to the crowd to bury bad news, this is a complete waste of time.

    There's plenty precedent for this though - like clauses in the Communications Act duplicate many parts of the Computer Misuse Act, so this will duplicate other parts of the Communications Act.

    The current Scottish Government went one further in the 'duplication of legislation for the sake of being seen to do something' stakes with the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act, which has actually had the effect of reducing the number of convictions achieved for the behaviour being outlawed as previously they would be tried under Breach of the Peace laws, which had a lower test are a greater range of punishment.

    Our leaders really are idiots at times and their misuse of legislation like this proves it.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's hope they don't reverse the burden of proof or stifle legitimate speech... Oh, they already do that in some cases.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "protect victims from malicious comments"

    After seeing some of the comments Caroline Criado-Perez has directed towards people on twitter, she could end up in the slammer going by that description. Can we have a Hypocrite button to go along with the favourite/like/whatever please?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MP & a puzzle for to solve before she does anything else ..

    Ms Bray,

    a hypothetical for you - albeit an extreme one:

    a person sits in an Internet cafe on the international side of departures at an airport in Crimea. They access, over a Tor VPN, a PC in Washington DC, as a remote desktop session. From that remote desktop they then open a different VPN to a laptop conveniently left lying around online on an open WiFi connection somewhere in Western Europe. Using VNC onto that device they then remote desktop to a final machine somewhere in Syria. They then use the browser on that final machine to post something on Twitter. From which nation state did the post originate? Which courts have jurisdiction?

    When you've solved that one Ms Bray, move that laptop onto an international airliner in flight over Europe, using a WiFi connection.

    1. All names Taken

      Re: MP & a puzzle for to solve before she does anything else ..

      Fraser is that you?

    2. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

      Re: MP & a puzzle for to solve before she does anything else ..

      Firstly, I am not Ms Bray;

      Secondly, I am not a lawyer;

      Thirdly, all that sodding around with VPNs and Tor makes no difference if (a) the Twitter post in question was "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character" and (b) it was read in the UK. Your hypothetical Crimean traveller has prima facie committed an offence under S.127 of the Communications Act 2003, and the UK courts have jurisdiction because the message has travelled over a UK public telecommunications network.

      Now, the HCT has covered his or her location fairly well, but he or she has posted something to an identifiable Twitter account, so isn't anonymous, at all. On reaching UK territory, arrest may ensue. I have no idea if the offence is extraditable, but I suspect not.

  19. Benjol

    Maybe I'm not up to date with the latest terminology, but for me there is a world of difference between trolling and bullying or stalking.

    1) Trolling: Eadon

    2) Bullying: threatening physical harm

    3) Cyber-bullying; threatening physical harm via internet

    I think 1) we can handle fine on our own, and I see no reason to differentiate (as far as sanctions are concerned) between 2) and 3).

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