Social Media Grey Areas

September 27, 2016

In today’s modern world, social media is generally seen as having a positive impact on society. We can catch up with old friends, make new ones and browse endless family holiday snaps.

But what about the dark side of social media? In some cases, social media and the internet as a whole can be used as a tool to harass an individual or publish material without permission. As the world of social media is fast-paced and ever-changing, perpetrators often find new ways to target victims, and it can be a while before the law catches up completely.

When this happens, we call it the social media ‘grey area’.

Fake social media accounts

Incidents of people creating fake social media profiles of others to humiliate or embarrass them have been an issue since social media first gained popularity. In fact, Facebook stated in 2012 that there are tens of millions of fake profiles on the site that are used in various scams like this.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) brought out new guidelines that specifically mentioned ‘trolls’ using fake profiles in England and Wales in 2016.

Existing laws state that prosecution is possible when a perpetrator uses social media to either:

  • Threaten an individual
  • Harass, stalk or post ‘revenge porn’ of an individual
  • Breach an existing court order.

But the new guidelines from the CPS also advise that prosecutions should take place in cases that see perpetrators create fake profiles to cause the victim anxiety or humiliation.

The rise of ‘revenge porn’

Revenge porn is the act of posting intimate photos of an ex partner onto the internet to embarrass or humiliate them. The shocking fact is that many people think that doing this is perfectly within their rights, and that they will not be prosecuted. This is not true.

In April 2015 the law surrounding revenge porn changed, and it is now illegal to post a ‘private sexual photograph or film’ without the consent of the person featured in the content.

Revenge porn offenders can face up to two years in prison plus a fine.

Kim Kardashian vs. Taylor Swift

One of the most prominent cases of content being posted on social media without the consent of the person featured is the ongoing Kim Kardashian vs. Taylor Swift case. Kardashian posted a voice recording of Swift on the telephone to her husband, Kanye West, during which Swift gave her consent for West to use her name in a song, which she had claimed to not have done.

This is a potential violation of California state law, which requires both parties to consent to the recording of communications.

If you think that you have been the victim of social media harassment or abuse, contact us today for a confidential chat.

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