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Internet Trolling and Online Abuse

Volume 608: debated on Thursday 14 April 2016

6. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to increase prosecution rates for internet trolling and other forms of online abuse. (904467)

7. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service has taken to increase prosecution rates for internet trolling and other forms of online abuse on social media; and if he will make a statement. (904468)

The Crown Prosecution Service recently revised its publicly available social media guidelines. They are subject to a current consultation, which will result in the publication of finalised guidelines on serious offences later in the year.

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the effect of online abuse on mental health can be damaging, particularly among young people? Will he urge the social media sector to engage with the CPS and other agencies to root out poor behaviour and signpost the support that is available to victims in law?

Online abuse can sometimes be worse than face-to-face abuse, because it is all-pervading and does not end at the school gates or allow for privacy at home. The Director of Public Prosecutions has met several social media providers, and the CPS will continue to work with them on measures to improve the reporting and prosecution of such abuse.

Even I have been trolled on Twitter. I do not know whether it was Momentum or someone else, but people have doubted the provenance of my hair. Can you believe that?

However, a friend of mine has a young son of 16 who has also been trolled on Twitter. He did not take it as lightly as I do and the poor boy has harmed himself, which is a serious matter. I was interested to hear the Solicitor General’s reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley), but what steps can we take to deter young people from bullying other young people on Twitter, Facebook and other social media?

I am naturally reticent to trespass upon the bailiwick of my hon. Friend’s hair, so I will confine my remarks to the serious issue he raised about the mental health impacts on young people. Work is being done on training so that CPS prosecutors can enable victims and users to report abuse and, in particular, to ensure that offending content can be removed by providers.

What action is being taken in schools in conjunction with the Department for Education to try to curtail the amount of online abuse aimed at young people?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that a massive amount of work is being done by not only the Department for Education, but the third sector on cyber-bullying and its effects on young people. The combined approach that is being taken in schools the length and breadth of the country is not only alerting young people to the dangers, but empowering them to make complaints, so that they do not have to suffer in silence.