Social media crime and how to avoid it
With the ever-growing popularity of social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram it is important to take a step back and consider your use of them. You need to make sure that you and your children not only control the personal information that is put onto social media but also your behaviour on such sites to steer clear of social media crime.
Control your online information
Be aware of the potential for cyber-enabled fraud. Fraudsters can use information obtained from such sites to commit identity theft. Telling everyone about your forthcoming holiday may also be an advance invitation to a burglar. It is surprising how much information we reveal about ourselves over a period of time.
If you have children you also need to be aware of the dangers of persons contacting them and then grooming your child. This involves building an emotional attachment to them with a view to a meeting for the purpose of sexual abuse or exploitation.
Many online games allow for messaging between users – do you know who your child is talking to?
Control your own behaviour
Many offences can be committed in the heat of the moment or when in drink. They will involve the typing of a comment that cannot then be taken back.
Revenge porn, involving publishing intimate images of an ex-partner without their consent, is now a criminal offence and often results in a prison sentence. This article deals with this type of offending in more detail.
What may seem to be banter to you may actually be offensive. What may be intended to be seen by a few could end up being seen by thousands of social media users.
The use of a fake social networking profile or account may also be a criminal offence in certain circumstances.
What about freedom of speech and social media crime?
Freedom of speech is not an absolute right and may be restricted where necessary and proportionate.
Think it couldn’t happen to you?
You might remember the Robin Hood Airport case? In that case a young man made what he intended to be a jokey comment about blowing up the airport if he couldn’t make his flight due to adverse weather.
He found himself in court and was convicted by magistrates. He lost his appeal to the crown court. His conviction was finally quashed at a second High Court appeal. By then he had already lost his job as a consequence of the conviction.
What are the consequences?
Last year the Crown Prosecution Service updated its policy statements in order to take account of the increase in online abuse,. The change is to emphasise that individuals need to appreciate they can’t go online and use their keyboard without any consequences.
At the other end of the spectrum, saying something unpopular or unpleasant is not unlawful. People’s sensitivities do need to be balanced with free speech, and we see reported a number of cases that cause us concern.
This tide of sensitivity could result in people pleading guilty when in fact they are not.
How can we help defend social media crime?
Social media crime will involve serious allegations and the law is complex. As a result, if you are arrested or know that the police wish to speak to you about an offence then make sure you insist on your right to free and independent legal advice.
If you have already been interviewed or face court proceedings we can still make a real difference to the outcome of your case. Legal aid may well be available to fund your defence at court.
We have offices across the East Midlands. You can find your most convenient office here. Alternatively you can contact us using the form below.