Should Online Abuse be a Criminal Offence
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Earlier this month, I spoke with Jason Mohammad at BBC Radio Wales following Katie Price's call to the government to adopt Harvey's Law, named after her son, who is the victim of horrendous, persistent abuse, to create a register of online abuse offenders. I was discussing with him how we rely on the laws of harassment for dealing with online abuse. The same laws that apply to offline activities also apply to online activities.
The issue is that we have created two societies: the offline and the online.
The offline society is heavily regulated with the police and the courts and the online society isn’t regulated at all. Although, we are now seeing a bit of a change in understanding that there aren’t two different societies and the effect of online abuse cannot be underestimated. The psychological effects of being the victim of online abuse (it is on the internet 24 hours a day 7 days a week) is extremely harmful for a person because it never goes away and very often just escalates. This is harassment.
As the internet and social media has become an everyday part of our lives, online abuse has become commonplace for many but just because you are in the public eye, does that make it acceptable to be the target of this abuse? If someone was in the street shouting abuse at someone, they would be arrested.
Why is online abuse and harassment not taken as seriously as abuse ‘in the real world’?
Controversial figure celebrity Katie Price has been a target of online abuse since she first appeared in the media and she indicated that she expects it with being in the public eye. However, when it comes down to the protection of her family, she is just not going to put up with it any longer. She has called on the UK government to adopt Harvey’s Law (named after her defenceless 15-year-old son who has been the subject of horrendous abuse) to make online abuse a specific criminal offence. After numerous reports to the police about the abuse, they could not do anything because there wasn’t anything in place.
She wants the government to create a register of offenders, in the same way that they do in the United States they have a register of sex offenders as she hopes that this would be a deterrent. .
I support Katie Price. The police are not keeping pace with technological changes and victims of online abuse need to be supported and protected and perpetrators need to be held accountable for their actions but although a register of internet trolls might never become a reality, online abuse should become a criminal offence in its own right without having to prove it is harassment.
There isn’t an escape and it doesn’t stop when the computer is turned off. This can have a detrimental effect on any victim’s health, life, career and relationships. Online abuse is harassment. The laws of Harassment apply to online as well as offline harassment and it is a criminal wrongdoing and a civil wrongdoing. You can hear the whole interview here.