Chief police officers: Twitter abuse does not require new laws
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has rejected calls for new laws to govern how police deal with abuse on social website Twitter.
Recent high profile cases of abuse, most notably aimed at Olympic diver Tom Daley and Bolton Wanders footballer Fabrice Muamba, have led to calls for authorities to become involved in the policing of Twitter.
Stuart Hyde, who speaks on e-crime for ACPO, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that forces should take a “common sense” approach.
Mr Hyde said that it was right for police to do so, in cases where individuals’ lives were being made a misery by internet “trolls”.
However, he rejected calls for new laws to govern Twitter, saying that problems may eventually be resolved by the website itself taking action to root out the abuse.
When asked if new laws were needed Mr Hyde said: “No, I think we have got quite a lot of legislation, dating back to the Malicious Communications Acts of 1998 and 2003.
“There is a lot there that helps us and gives us the power to do stuff.
“This is a new technology, a new way of communicating; it has grown exponentially. There hasn’t been separate legislation, so we are using legislation that wasn’t particularly created for this, but it works reasonably well most of the time.
“We are learning from it; there are things that have sometimes gone wrong and I think sometimes it is important that we make sure we provide the service people need.
“If people come to us and say ‘I am really upset, I’ve been offended, my life has been made a misery and I want somebody to do something about it’, then yes the police should, whenever possible, try to help.”
Police Federation spokesman Steve Evans, also on the Today Programme, added: “The sheer scale of it [Twitter abuse] is huge.”
“Police resources are stretched almost to breaking point, so if we started trying to investigate every instance of stupidity within Twitter then we would be really pushed.”
Mr Evans concluded by saying: “That doesn’t mean to say we won’t deal with criminal offences. If criminal offences are clearly there, then it is the police’s job to investigate them.”