'Unpopular' Tweeters with few followers could escape prosecution for 'grossly offensive' posts in UK

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 14, 2012 10:50 hrs

Unpopular Twitter accounts that have very few followers could escape prosecution for posting "grossly offensive" messages as part of an attempt to protect free speech online under new guidelines being developed by a British prosecutor in the UK.

Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions in the UK, said it could be appropriate for more popular tweeters to face prosecution if they tweet something "grossly offensive" to thousands of people, as opposed to those who have only a few dozen followers.

It follows concerns that police are increasingly ready to act against people who post offensive material online and are thus threatening free speech, The Telegraph reports.

According to the paper, the initiative was triggered by the incident of Daniel Tomas, a 17-year-old from Dorset who was arrested for in July for abusing Tom Daley on Twitter, following his fourth place in the Olympic men's synchronised diving event.

The Crown Prosecution Service had then decided not to prosecute the teenager in part because he had only around a hundred followers, the paper said.

As well as taking into account the number of followers a Twitter member has, Starmer also suggested that prosecutors would in future assess the intent behind material that could be considered grossly offensive, as well as the impact it has on targets.

"If you send a message to the family of April Jones one hour after they have been told their little girl is dead, that is very different to you sending an email to your mate," he said. (ANI)

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