Monday, November 12, 2012

Burning poppys

It's our good friend Section 127 of the Communications Act rearing its very ugly head again, this time aided and abetted by Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act. This time it's someone posting a photo of a burning poppy on twitter who's been arrested by Kent police on suspicion of "malicious telecommunications". But why has the Malicious Communications Act been brought into play?

Well under the 127 CA the communication can be classed as offensive if it is so deemed by other people; under 1 MCA it's whether it was intended to cause distress to the recipient. In both cases it doesn't matter whether or not it was actually received it's the sending that counts as an offense.

Except there's a problem here with using MCA. There's no intended recipient so it's impossible that the message was sent with intent to cause distress to a non-existent person. Simple use of the CA would have (sadly) been enough, but that would leave the decision up to a group of peers. Using MCA anyone who received who found it caused distress could be enough of a case under that Act.

Now this is where it turns good - this application of MCA opens up a whole can o'fun because it covers "sending to another of any article which is indecent or grossly offensive, or which conveys a threat, or which is false" Just read that last bit again "which is false". How many newspapers now have an online version; how many 'send out' their articles via newsfeeds etc.? Any newspaper that exaggerates a story or just sends the first (and most eye-catching) parts via a feed may now face charges under the MCA for sending a "false" article.

Now, of course, one may argue that there was no intent involved as they send these things out to anybody who asks for them including their subscribers so it's not a targeted article... oh hey that's just like Facebook and Twitter; oh forget that then - get them arrested as quickly as possible.

On a completely unrelated topic I have a sudden urge to browse the Daily Mail website; can't think why.