Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire Asks “Should You Have Freedom Of Speech On Twitter”?
Freedom of speech will be under threat if too many people are taken to court over offensive messages published on Twitter.
Prosecutions for crimes involving social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have increased almost nine fold in the past four years. However, there has been concern over some court cases.
Last year, a man who was convicted for joking about blowing up an airport had his conviction overturned on appeal.
Ruling on the case, the country’s most senior judge said Twitter users should be “free to speak what they feel”. The Crown Prosecution Service is currently consulting about new guidelines on when it is appropriate to prosecute for messages placed on Twitter and other sites.
Mr Starmer said: “I think that if there are too many investigations and too many cases coming to court then that can have a chilling effect on free speech.
“This is about trying to get the balance right, making sure time and resources are spent on cases that really do need to go to court, and not spent on cases which people might think really would be better dealt with by a swift apology and removal of the offending tweet.”
He stressed that people who wrote libelous tweets, or messages that broke court orders or were threatening, would still face prosecution.
But he added: “There is a lot of stuff out there that is highly offensive that is put out on a spontaneous basis that is quite often taken down pretty quickly and the view is that those sort of remarks don’t necessarily need to be prosecuted.
“This is not a get-out-of-jail card but it is highly relevant. Stuff does go up on a Friday and Saturday night and come down the next morning. If that is the case a lot of people will say: 'that shouldn’t have happened, the person has accepted it, but really you don’t need a criminal prosecution.’ It is a relevant factor.”
Last year, Mr Starmer said people who posted offensive messages when drunk and then took them down as soon as they were sober should avoid prosecution. But yesterday he stressed Twitter was not a place where people could “say what they like” without thinking of consequences.
Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire asks “Are you careful about what you Tweet when drunk?”