People posting malicious comments and messages online could face up to two years in prison.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling has proposed that the current six month term for sending hateful online messages should be quadrupled, putting posting abuse on par with posting revenge porn.
The comments come in the wake of model Chloe Madeley receiving online abuse, including threats of rape, following comments made about footballer and convicted rapist Ched Evans.
Grayling told the told the Mail on Sunday: “As the terrible case of Chloe Madeley showed last week, people are being abused online in the most crude and degrading fashion.
“This is a law to combat cruelty – and marks our determination to take a stand against a baying cyber-mob. We must send out a clear message: if you troll you risk being behind bars for two years.”
The term ‘trolling’ has a long history and its original meaning has been somewhat warped. Trolling, when used correctly, refers to the practice of tricking someone into behaving in a particular manner.
Originally, it was the online equivalent of telling someone that the word ‘gullible’ is written on the ceiling. It’s since been used by people less familiar with its origins to describe any form of online mockery or abuse.
Chloe Madeley told the newspaper that the law needs to be reviewed to express the changing nature of online media. The Communications Act was developed almost ten years ago and doesn’t take into account mediums such as Twitter and Facebook.
Madeley said: “Threats of any kind must not be interpreted as freedom of speech. Threatening to harm others is extreme and crosses the line of personal opinion into criminal behaviour.”
Additionally, the new proposals will mean serious cases of internet trolling can be passed on from a magistrate’s court to a crown court. Grayling’s proposals will mean police have more time to collect evidence and as a result, bring more cases to justice.
Grayling added: “No-one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media. That is why we are determined to quadruple the current six-month sentence.”