How does social media impact the law? | Hudson McKenzie

How does social media impact the law?

In 2014, the House of Lords Select Committee released a publication regarding social media and criminal offences. The publication specifically focused upon how far criminal offences overlap, when committed in either ‘offline’ reality or virtually ‘online’. Since then, with the rise of social media increasingly being used as evidence in court, an ongoing focus remains upon how far the evolution of technology, as demonstrated through platforms such as social media, are going to affect the future of the law and the justice system of not only each individual nation, but upon a global scale.

Within the publication, the director of public prosecutions set out guidelines identifying how statute law should be applied to any prosecutions that involve social media communications. For example, the Harassment Act 1997 can be sufficiently used for the prosecution of ‘virtual mobbing’. In which, even though the ‘offline’ offences outlined within statute law pre-date the invention of social media, (with Facebook being launched in 2004 and Twitter in 2006), acts that are considered as threats of violence to the person or damage to property can still hold to acts of the same nature that are committed ‘online’.

Therefore, given this clear overlap between criminal offences committed ‘online’ and ‘offline’ – one may ask; given the rapid rise of technology on a global scale, how long will it be before the law merges the understanding of ‘offline’ and ‘online’ all together, so to create a stronger justice system?

This question is particularly in relation to social media increasingly being used to provide evidence within legal cases. However, with social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter continually evolving; how far can the ‘offline’ system of statute law continuingly remain relevant in its application to the criminal offences that are committed ‘online’? Will the Law have to evolve and adapt, so to keep up with rising technology and its use as a platform for legal evidence? Will law become a matter of codes?

To read more about the house of lords select committee publication, please click the following link:

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Author: Portia Vincent-Kirby