UK Internet Speech Laws - The Solution to Indency on the Web?

I think we have all heard some horrible stories about bullying on the internet producing tragic outcomes, and I have often written about my disappointment at the lack of civil discourse on the web (see just about any comments section on a major news website for myriad examples).

That said, is prison the best deterrent for those who would use the web to treat others poorly? Put another way, should civility be enforced by law and trump individuals' rights to speech? Despite my dislike for internet bullies I am not sure that I can answer those questions definitively here. Nonetheless, long-time readers will know that, at the very least, certain answers to these questions are very troublesome to me despite my disappointment at how the web is often used.

While a light touch is used in the US (with that light touch sometimes giving way to a heavier-handed approach based on particular outcomes in cases; some good examples can be found mixed in with some other less-on-point info here) as far as legal repurcussions the approach in the UK is significantly different. There, the approach is to punish people for the behavior itself rather than the outcomes that behavior produces.

While decency is certainly preferable to indecency, I am not sure jailing people for speech - however vile - is the solution. In any case, this issue is far from settled, in the US or the UK, and is unfortunately certain to take up plenty of headline space, likely under tragic circumstances, far more frequently than either decency or speech advocates would like.

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