When you think about laws, how many of you consciously ponder about breaking them?
In actuality, many people, whether its a minor or felony charge, break laws due to their own incompetence; but the primary problem with ignoring laws is that it is contagious — and when the laws themselves are incoherent, the possibility of others continuing to break the law will rise leading to systematic harm. A primary example of this issue today is concerning the online communication laws, and their failure to protect victims from internet abuse such as: “pile on” harassment and “deep fake” pornography.
Though the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) commissioned a study for reform and consolidation of existing criminal legislation, let’s review at the different acts that resulted in poor performance against these emerging crimes:
- Malicious Communications Act 1988
- Communications Act 2003
- Public Order Act 1986
- Protection from Harassment Act of 1997
- Data Protection Act
From the Home Office estimated statistics, only about 3% of malicious communication offenses resulted in a prosecution, and at the present time, criminal law does not treat “pile on” abuse as a form of intense harassment. Pile on harassment is when you receive a plethora of hateful or demeaning messages/content from different sources. So, whether or not reforms will focus on the association and coordination when inciting this behavior, leaves an open question as to who would be more effectively targeted for persecution.
Abuse of emerging technologies can be of blame, but when inciting deep fake pornography- where the individual’s face is transposed by computer manipulation onto the bodies of naked people- it’s the laws own failure to adequately protect victims from their personal information being spread and exposed online; which causes exponential grief to anyone, regardless of who you are. Many reports have highlighted the harm of online abuse, including feelings of shame, loneliness, stress, anger, rage, anxiety, depression, and even suicide.
If you really think about it, online abuse is similar to the avoidance of domestic abuse in the 1980’s. People say it was something that happened, and the police wouldn’t step into the dispute unless it was something extremely serious in nature… however every part of society has changed when prosecutions started being brought in. Criminal law should provide equal protection against abuse made online and offline, and if ignored on one end- could be detrimental for the other.