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Cyberflashing law reforms set to come to England and Wales
by Paul Hill
The Law Commission for England and Wales has published proposals to better protect victims from harmful online behaviour. The proposals suggest an alteration to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to cover Cyberflashing (unsolicited nude images and videos) and reforms to the Malicious Communications Act (MCA) 1988 and the Communications Act (CA) 2003 to criminalise pile-on harassment.
Pile-on harassment is defined by the Law Commission as several different individuals sending harassing communications to a victim. The proposed changes include communication such as emails, social media posts, and WhatsApp messages. It also includes communications over Bluetooth or a local intranet which aren’t yet covered by the Communications Act 2003.
The Law Commission said that online abuse is covered by the MCA 1988 and the CA 2003 but suffers from a range of problems including that they do not “adequately criminalise” cyberflashing and pile-on harassment. It also said the threshold of criminality is too low and with its reforms wants to heighten it to only include those who knowingly post false information about someone or are intending to cause harm.
Commenting on the proposals, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
In the proposal, the Law Commission also asks questions about other areas that could be reformed in the future. These included topics such as incitement or encouragement of pile-on harassment, knowing participation in pile-on harassment, the glorification of violence or violent crime, and incitement or encouragement of self-harm. You can find the full paper on the Law Commission’s website.
England and Wales to launch COVID tracing app on Sept. 24
by Paul Hill
The U.K. government has announced that England and Wales will launch a COVID-19 contact tracing app to the general public on September 24. The two countries will be the last in the United Kingdom to launch a contact tracing app with Northern Ireland launching one in July and Scotland launching its app last week.
The new contact tracing app that’ll be used in England and Wales has been in a trial phase since the middle of August. Residents of Newham in London and the Isle of Wight have been able to help beta test the app.
Unlike the centralised app which the government originally opted to pursue, the new app will use Bluetooth to detect nearby people but will also let you scan QR codes when you attend a venue. If anyone who visited the venue tests positive for coronavirus you will be notified and told to isolate yourself.
Discussing the QR codes, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
If the app detects that you may have coronavirus, the nice green circle will turn an alarming red and will let you know that you need to isolate yourself until a certain time and day. In England, if you do not follow the isolation instruction you can be fined, however, your usage of the app is anonymous so authorities can’t tell if you’re flouting the rules.
Is anyone here excited about Phoenix Point?
I'm sooo looking forward to it being released! December can't come soon enough!
UK: Campaigners call for anonymity in revenge porn cases and better police training
by Paul Hill
Calls have been made to give victims of revenge porn anonymity when they go to report their case. Campaigners have also suggested that just being threatened with revenge porn should also be a crime. In England and Wales, sharing private or sexual images of a person without consent has been a crime since April 2015, similar laws were introduced later in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
As it stands now, those who come forward to police to report a crime are not given anonymity because it’s categorised as a communications crime. Sophie Mortimer from the Revenge Porn helpline has said that revenge porn cases should be classified as sexual offences so that anonymity can be given to victims.
As smartphones have become more widespread in society, the number of revenge porn cases has increased dramatically. Figures from 19 police forces in England and Wales reveal that the number of cases being investigated had jumped from 852 in 2015-16 to 1,853 in 2018-19. In the same timeframe, the police forces that were asked for data revealed that the number of people charged under revenge porn laws had decreased by 23% from 207 to 158. Campaigners say that police need more training on the issue.
Research by the University of Suffolk suggests that just 5% of police officers asked were properly informed on revenge porn laws. Speaking to the BBC, Mortimer said:
The legislation around revenge porn is continually evolving around the world as lawmakers come to terms with what can be done with technology. Proposals for changes to these laws such as the ones outlined above will likely become more frequent in order to better address the issue.
Source: BBC News
Ofcom claims that a majority of UK homes and businesses can access ultra-fast broadband
by Paul Hill
Ofcom has announced that a majority of homes and businesses around the UK now have access to ultrafast broadband (>300Mbit/s), according to the regulator’s Our Connected Nations report. Ofcom also reported that full-fibre broadband was also now available in around 7% of premises following commercial roll-outs of FTTP (Fibre-to-the-premises) by BT, Virgin Media, and KCOM.
Discussing the availability of ultrafast broadband, Ofcom said:
Ofcom has another category of broadband called superfast broadband which is defined as download speeds of 30Mbit/s and above. It said the number of premises with superfast broadband remained relatively stable rising by 1% this year to 95% of the UK.
One of the big problems the UK has faced is getting those out in the sticks connected to the internet with a fast broadband connection. It said that 619,000 premises still do not have access to decent broadband which it defines as having a download speed of at least 10Mbit/s and an upload speed of at least 1Mbit/s.
The governments around the UK have various projects underway which plan to expand the reach of superfast broadband. For example, the UK government has allocated £200 million to pilot innovative ways to deploy fibre in rural areas, while the Welsh government has announced £13 million aimed at connecting up 16,000 premises in North Wales, South West Wales, and the Valleys. Scotland and Northern Ireland also have projects which aim to get people more connected.