'Grossly offensive' internet trolls that ruin people's lives could face jail time in the UK

Creating offensive hashtags and publishing doctored images could now land you in jail under new rules that have been issued in England and Wales, the BBC reports.

Internet trolls often work in numbers and drum up support on social media platforms in order to take down or humiliate an individual. Sometimes their actions can ruin people’s lives and in extreme cases lead to suicide.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the UK’s most senior prosecutor, wants to stamp out this kind of behaviour.

Those that create “virtual mobs” online will now face jail time, the prosecutor said on Monday.

Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions at the CPS told the BBC that law officials will now prosecute “in the same way” as if it were offline, while stressing that this is not an attempt to stifle free speech.

Trolls that post people’s bank details online — an act referred to as doxxing — will also be targeted through the new rules.

But the CPS isn’t going to go after every single person that posts something offensive online. The material posted will have to be “grossly offensive” before someone is charged, the BBC reports.

“The internet’s not an anonymous place where people can post without any consequences,” Saunders said during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “People should think about their own conduct.”

She added: “If you are grossly abusive to people, if you are bullying or harassing people online, then we will prosecute in the same way as if you did it offline.”

The reforms are being introduced following the publication of a report by the UK Safer Internet Centre that showed one in four teenagers are abused online.

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