The number of people being prosecuted for crimes relating to last comments on Twitter is rising dramatically each year.

Much of these can be attributed to what would seem to be obvious crimes – threating people with violent attacks or terrorism or posting abusive messages. However, here at Unlock the Law we wanted to make you aware of the less obvious Twitter.

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Tell Lies

Writing a false statement about someone on Twitter will constitute what is known as defamation if it is found to cause substantial harm to their reputation in England and Wales or mere harm in Scotland. Whilst is can be difficult to see the substantial harm that could be cause by gossip or a Tweet intended to be a joke, there have been very serious cases of Twitter defamation – especially in relation to those with a reputation to protect.

Lord McAlpine, Conservative peer made his intention to seek libel damages from Twitter users over incorrect and defamatory insinuations linking him to child sex abuse well known last year – he had already recovered damages from the BBC for a similar insinuation.

In the end he dropped the case, however this demonstrates how high profile cases can be and how your Tweets could end up being deemed defamatory.

In Australia however, a school-teacher was awarded $105,000 after a former student posted defamatory statements about her. The Court ruled the statements were damaging to her reputation and untrue.

Post Pictures of Your Ex

Twitter users who maliciously post sexually explicit pictures of former partners without their consent could face up to two years in prison.

The practice known as ‘revenge porn’ has recently been given its own law in a bill just passed by parliament. Previously this was prosecuted under other laws however the government and the police are taking the crime more seriously due to an increase in cases – potentially down to wider use of social media.

Name Victims of Crimes

The media are banned from naming victims of sexual assaults – this applies equally to those distributing information through social media.

Ched Evans, the Wales footballer was convicted of raping a 19-year-old girl in April 2012. The case resulted in over 6,000 Tweets some of which were unfavourable towards the victim but also naming her. Seven men and two women plead guilty to the crime but said they were unaware they were breaking the law by naming her.

Trolling

Trolling – for humour, entertainment or mischief can be harmless however it could get you into serious trouble with the law.

In 2011, Sean Duffy from Reading mocked dead children on social media sites resulting in an 18 week prison sentence.

This case is strange and rare as freedom of speech is a protected Human Right under ECHR, However, Mr Duffy was prosecuted under a law designed to protect the public from hate mail and nuisance calls. This shows the flexibility of the law in terms of adapting to new cases and tackling inappropriate behaviour where no legislation exists.

For more information on criminal law, defamation or social media law read our guides, follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our channel.

Read our Expert Guide to Criminal Prosecutions in the UK

If you require more information about criminal prosecutions in England and Wales please read our guide here.

If you require more information about criminal prosecutions in Scotland please read our guide here.

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Read our Expert Guide to Criminal Prosecutions in England and Wales

If you require more information about criminal prosecutions in England and Wales please read our guide here. You can also subscribe for updates here and view our full series of free expert legal guides here.

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