Your questions answered on new social media guidance


A smart phone user launching Twitter

New guidelines have been published to help prosecutors decide which messages on social media should be treated as a crime.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, said people should only face a trial if their posts go beyond being offensive.

The guidance is not intended to curb freedom of speech, say prosecutors.

There should also be leniency if people post something when drunk which they later genuinely regret and delete.

Newsbeat put questions asked by you on our Facebook page to Keir Starmer.

Abi Chambers - What does it mean to be offensive?

Somebody's got to make a judgement call. Prosecutors have to ask themselves, 'Is it really beyond offensive, beyond shocking?'. Anybody can access the guidelines, read them and come to a view on whether we've approached it in the right way.

Paul Leyton - So we can all relax when we pick up our phones when we're drunk?

No, if an individual posts a message, it may be grossly offensive. If they realise quickly that was a stupid thing to do and take it down, then a prosecution is less likely. I'm saying to prosecutors in those cases, do you really need a criminal prosecution where there's been swift action and some remorse?

Callum - Will they only be prosecuted if the tweet the person it was aimed at found it offensive?

If you're really intending it for a limited audience and if you're not targeting an individual then a prosecution is less likely. There's a high threshold so that freedom of speech can be protected.

Sophie Thompson - What about the stuff that gets written by trolls on the pages of people who've died?

If it's targeted, then that may well amount to harassment so that would fall the side of the line that calls for prosecution. A lot will depend on how long it was up there for, what the effect was on the individual.

Paul Clements - Don't these guidelines basically mean it makes life easier for cyber bullies?

No, cyber bulling is a form of harassment and that falls the side of the line where we're likely to prosecute. Anybody thinking of threatening, bullying or harassing others in a targeted way, then do not take from these guidelines that you will not be prosecuted.