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:
“I thank the Law Commission for its review and look forward to seeing the final recommendations on its proposed reforms to criminal law next year.
“We will soon introduce new legislation to put more responsibility on companies so they have the right systems in place to protect people online.”
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.