This week I have been questioning, what is the etiquette of social networking?
Sites such as Facebook and Twitter replace a great deal of face to face communication, certainly in my generation anyway. Its convenient, its fast and more to the point, its free! But social networking is still a relatively new concept so is anyone really aware of the legal consequences of what we write?
It is well known that racism is socially unacceptable. It is also well known that racially aggravated comments and actions are taken very seriously in the law however there has been a recent and disturbing increase in what has been termed 'Twacism' (Racism via twitter). Obviously this is completely immoral and the vast majority of people would never dream of saying or writing such ignorant abuse however I have a theory on why those ignorant few feel more inclined to air there comments on-line rather than publicly; My theory is that people believe that because they are not engaging in 'real-life' communication, real laws and consequences don't apply.
Fortunately section 127 of the Communications Act prohibits the sending of grossly offensive messages which includes racist comments on-line. Ironically the 'twacists' are their own worst enemy as the comments themselves are unequivocal evidence against them. Most recently a student from Swansea University has been accused of committing an offence under section 127 for tweeting racist remarks about a premiership footballer. The student is due to be sentenced faces imprisonment.
It is reassuring to know that the law takes issues such as racism as seriously on-line as it does off-line. In answer to my own question I now believe that the etiquette we are expected to comply with on the internet is exactly the same as we are expected to comply with in the 'real world.'
If this topic interests you as well check out the article that inspired my blog below:
Owen Bowcott and Katy Roberts 'Twitter Racism: How the law is taking on the 'Twacists' (The Guardian, 27th March 2012) accessed 22nd April 2012.