The UK and censorship: the war on “trolling”

Since art, culture and the free expression of thought revealed itself to mankinds collective conscientiousness, there has been a debate between the masses on whether certain things should be kept out of the public eye and made taboo, or whether everyone should be able to express anything they want.

The origin of the word “Censor” finds it’s roots in ancient Rome. It was the name given to who people- it was always two people at any given time- and the origanal function of the censors was to register citizens and there properties. Over time there jo roles expanded into upholding the morals of Rome. Thus Censors were given the right to penalize “moral offenders”, usually by the means of removing there public rights- such as voting. In many ways society hasn’t changed much in regards to the punishment of “moral offenders”, even in Britain one can be sent to prison where they will – temporarily- forfiet some of there rights- such as voting- if they do things that aren’t in line with the laws of the country.

As the general population has gotten technologically, intellecually and psychologically greater, so too has censorship gotten more sophisticated and advanced. This can be seen in 21st century Britain: in regards to the internet.

A recent example of this can be found in the proposed idea to jail internet trolls for two years. While there were already laws covering abuse over the internet, like the communications act of 2003, there are some people that are looking to amend this. In the acts current form, abusing someone on line could potentially put you behind bars for a maximum of six months, but the right honerale Chris Grayling is calling for the maximum sentence to be quadrupled. This is in the wake of Chloe Madeley suffering online abuse who agrees that social media should be regulated and also agrees with the proposed amendments. But amending the law and censoring peoples voices on social media could have some dire consequences.

One of my major concerns with this proposal is that it will punish people for internet trolling, harsher then it punishes actual real life stalkers. An internet troll – in internet slang- is someone who intentionally upsets and winds up others, by posting inflammatory messages on blogs, chatrooms or forums. While the legal definition of stalking is: unwanted or obsessive attention by an individual or group towards another person. Another concern of mine which arises after the definitions are made clear is the fact that the proposers of the amendment haven’t clearly defined the difference between internet stalkers and internet trolls. Chris Grayling appears to be generalizing both as the same, which is untrue. Where my origanal concern comes in are in the cases of Peter Nunn and Isabella Sorley.

Peter Nunn sent six tweets to Labour MP, Stella Creasy, threatening to rape her and brandishing her a witch and even moved to a different account when the origanal one was blocked. Peter Claimed that he was standing up for his right to freedom of speech and expression, but was jailed for 18 weeks, despite never having had a criminal conviction before in his life. Now this seems to be a fair sentence, Peter displayed signs of stalker like behaviour- despite his claim to be saturising internet trolls- and I think 18 weeks is an appropriate sentence. Meanwhile Isabella Sorley sent a series of tweets to a woman and got 12 weeks for, during a drunken state. Now Isabella also has never been criminally convicted and she wasn’t in the best state when she sent those tweets so this is a sentence I feel is just too harsh, perhaps if the sentence were community service, then I could sleep soundly, but the fact that her one drunken rage, is held in comparison to Peter Nunns- seemingly- obsessive stalking is just ridiculous.

Another problem with the amendment proposal is that the current system seems to work. Take the case of Isabella Sorley again, she seems to be genuinly sorry for any distress that she caused the “victom”. What will extending her sentence accomplish in the long run? Nothing. Prison is meant to rehabilitate people, to attune them to society. Society shouldn’t be going out of it’s way to prosecute and punish people further then is absoloutly necaserry.

Another more recent example of harsh censorship, is the new UK porn laws. Recently the government banned a long list of sexual acts which are now not allowed to be performed in British porn. Now while at the moment you can still get porn from other countries with the banned acts in, English porn makers are now in a system which, disadvantages them greatly, hurting the countries porn industry for concievably no reason. The government are also putting plans in place to censor forign porn sights nation wide, while parents having control over there own childrens access is fine, giving said parents the power to stop grown adults from making the conscious decistion to watch porn is ridiculous.

The fact of the matter is that the internet is the only platform in the world where you can express yourself in whatever way you want, whether it’s: sexually, artistically or just putting your half thought out opinions on a blog or social media account for the masses to read. It’s the last bastian of pure expression, where people can either have the spotlight on them or be H.G.Wells invisible man. The point is, the internet shouldn’t be censored or moderated. Yes you’re in the public eye your bound to get harassed, that’s par the course. Yes your going to see things that shock and disturb you, that’s what makes it so great, it’s one of the few places- short of the library- where you can see and read things that challenge and attack your beliefs, views and perceptions. In conclusion I think this quote tells the story best.

” submitting to censorship is to enter the seductive world of “the giver”: the world where there are no bad words and no bad deeds. But it is also the world where choice has been taken away and reality distorted. And that is the most dangerous world of all”.



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