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Social media: guidelines on offences

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has issued interim guidelines for use by the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS) when considering whether to bring charges in cases involving communications sent via social media such as Facebook and Twitter (including instances of re-sending and re-tweeting).

The guidance, which has immediate effect, sets out four different types of communicated content that might give grounds for prosecution, but focuses on messages that may be considered grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false. The DPP guidance also highlights the necessity for “clear evidence of an intention to cause distress or anxiety” (that is, that the message constitutes a credible threat rather than just being offensive) and reminds the CPS to look at the message in its full context.

This checklist highlights the risks that a business and its employees should be aware of when using the internet and e-mail at work, sending work-related e-mails or discussing the workplace on the internet.

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