Twitter and Facebook users who have failed to obtain the status of either "social" or "networked" can take some comfort from a recent statement by the UK Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, that its hitherto aggressive stance against those sending "grossly offensive" messages might well pass them by.
Under section 127(1) of the UK's Communications Act 2003, a person is guilty of an criminal offence if he uses the Internet to send a message that is "grossly offensive" or of an "indecent, obscene or menacing character". Anyone who causes such a message to be sent is also guilty of an offence, and many were alarmed by a recent Crown Prosecution Service tweet that put netizens on notice that the DPP considers section 127 to cover retweets.
Speaking ahead of revised CPS guidelines on social media prosecutions, however, the DPP has stated that it is popular social media users who are more likely to face scrutiny, and prosecution, than those who are only whistling in the wind. He did not indicate how the CPS would approach users who have only small numbers of followers but whose messages are retweeted by more popular users.
We look forward to the clarity that the CPS's revised guidelines should bring and will prepare a Client Advisory once they have been published.