In the wake of a number of high-profile cases of abusive and threatening behavior on online social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and others, the British government has proposed a new legislation, which if enacted, would see Internet trolls facing some serious jail time.
"These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life", said Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. "No one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media".
The move comes just days after model Chloe Madeley was subjected to rape threats on Twitter following her mother Judy Finnigan's controversial remarks about the footballer and convicted rapist Ched Evans, saying that his crime was non-violent as he did not cause any physical harm to the teenager he attacked. Madeley, who defended her mother's remarks, described the threats as "extremely chilling and cowardly".
Under the current law, Internet trolls who subject victims to sexually offensive, verbally abusive, or threatening material, can only be prosecuted in magistrates' courts under the Malicious Communications Act, which carries a maximum jail penalty of six months. The new legislation (dubbed Chloe’s Law) would allow magistrates to refer serious cases to the crown courts, where offenders could face a jail penalty of up to 24 months.
"The current law obviously needs to be reviewed", said Madeley, adding that physical threats shouldn't fall under freedom of speech, and rather be seen as online terrorism. Aside from her, the parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann are also among the most recent victims of Internet trolls.
The law change will be introduced as amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, and is scheduled to be debated in the House of Lords in the coming week.