Internet Trolling Convictions Rocketed In Last Decade
It may not be that surprising to many, but the number of people that have been convicted of section 127 offences has risen from 143 in 2004 to 1,209 last year; a rise of more than 800%. Section 127 offences include trolling and the sending of other hateful, harmful, or indecent messages, and as well as the increased membership and usage of social networks like Facebook, the rise has also been attributed to the greater number of high profile cases that have appeared in the media.
The offence itself not only covers social media, but any “public electronic communications network” so could feasibly include phone calls and text messages. The maximum sentence for a section 127 offence is six months in prison, a fine, or a combination of both, and persistent calls or messages are typically only treated as a single offence. There have been calls for the maximum sentence to be increased, but lawmakers have argued that harassment, bomb hoaxes, and hate crimes can be tried under separate offences, most of which have considerably greater sentences.
Internet usage has become increasingly common, and more powerful smartphones as well as cheaper data, means that many people go online for several hours each day, updating social network statuses and chatting with friends. While this can be seen as a largely positive thing, it also increases exposure to the less desirable element of internet users. The term troll is used to describe those that intentionally set out to upset, harm, or offend others with online posts and messages.
While Facebook now claims to have more than 1 billion active users, back in 2004 when the new Data Communications Act had only just been introduced and figures on section 127 offences were first gathered, the site only officially launched in February of that year and had amassed 1 million users by the end of the year. YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram had yet to launch and while LinkedIn launched in May 2003, it only had a quarter of the number of members that Facebook had. It is hardly surprising, then, that the number of offences has increased, but users are reminded that trolling and intentionally offending could be considered an offence and may lead to a custodial sentence.