Islands are being asked if they think Jersey’s Government should make changes to the laws that allow people to be prosecuted for harmful online behaviour. The questions form part of a new consultation, launched on 31st March by the Council of Ministers. The document looks at whether the Island’s existing laws are sufficient for the prosecution of behaviour such as sending grossly offensive, threatening, false or malicious electronic communications, including via social media.
The consultation also invites comments on behaviour that constitutes cyberbullying, while at the same time highlighting the importance of protecting freedom of expression. The need to ‘future proof’ any possible legal amendments against the rapid advances in digital communications technology is also addressed.
Assistant Chief Minister, Philip Ozouf said: “We are a connected society, and continuing to develop the infrastructure and technology to support this is a priority for the Council of Ministers. Equally, we remain committed to ensuring that Islanders are protected from harm in their online lives, just as they are offline. In principle, we want to make sure that there is a level playing field, where activities conducted online are held accountable to the same standards as those conducted offline, whilst always being mindful of the need to preserve freedom of speech.
“Having spoken with a range of stakeholders, and having seen extensive research on the topic, it is my understanding that adequate legislation is in fact already in place to prosecute harmful online behaviour. However, it is the purpose of this consultation to make sure all types of harmful behaviour are covered by the law, to ensure that it is fit for purpose, and to explore whether there are more effective ways of tackling this behaviour. For example, it will seek to gauge opinion on whether there is a need to enact any new offences such as the posting online of revenge pornography.”
The Assistant Home Affairs Minister, Constable Deirdre Mezbourian added: “This should not result in electronic communications being subject to a more stringent level of legislation than other means of communication. Instead, it should aim to remove any doubt about the application of existing legislation. It is also important to remember that the law alone is unlikely to address all concerns around online behaviour. Education and awareness-based approaches are also important in effectively reducing harmful behaviour in the longer term.”
To take part in the consultation, please visit here.
Alternatively, for a hard copy of the document, write to:
Harmful Online Communications Consultation
Cyril le Marquand House
Please contact States of Jersey with any further questions.