A statement from the Metropolitan police on Wednesday, warning internet users that they may be committing a crime if they watched the online video of the brutal murder of journalist James Foley caused controversy this week.
With the horrific video of James Foley's execution on social media, James Doleman from UK publication The Drum looks into the different ways posting on social media can get you in trouble with the law. Pay attention to keep yourself out of jail.
One legal expert, David Alan Green, who is head of the litigation and media practices at Preiskel and Co, wrote in the Financial Times that this was an “alarmist and false statement”, while Steve Kuncewicz of Bermans told The Drum that “people had a right to be worried when it appeared that the Metropolitan police didn’t understand the law”.
With prosecutions relating to Twitter doubling in the last two years and over 13,000 crimes being reported in connection with Facebook in 2013, The Drum has suggested ten ways your social media activity could earn you a trip to the courts.
1. Libel someone: Posting on Twitter and Facebook is regarded by the law as “publication” so is covered by the same laws that regulate newspapers and magazines. As the case of Lord McAlpine, who was wrongly accused of sex offences, even retweeting a defamatory claim can leave you open to prosecution.
The peer dropped his original threat to sue any Twitter user with more than 500 followers who repeated the accusations, or anyone who retweeted any tweets that did, but he did get £15,000 in damages from the wife of Parliament’s speaker Sally Bercow who had tweeted: “Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*”.
Check out the other nine ways you could end up in trouble here.