Macclesfield Pride: Malicious, Abusive or Threatening Calls Policy
Whether from people you know or from strangers, these are a criminal offence.
What is it?
There are two main types of abuse. That on social media and by the use of mobile phones etc.
Social media offences
Trolling is a form of baiting online which involves sending abusive and hurtful comments across all social media platforms. This can be prosecuted under the Malicious Communication Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003.
Online threats could take many forms including threats to kill, harm or to commit an offence against a person, group of people or organisation.
Disclosure of private sexual images without consent – so called “revenge porn” is a broad term covering a range of activity usually involving an ex-partner, uploading intimate sexual images of the victim to the internet, to cause the victim humiliation or embarrassment. It is a criminal offence to re-tweet or forward without consent, a private sexual photograph or film, if the purpose was to cause distress to the individual depicted.
Online harassment can include repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications or contact in a manner that could be expected to cause distress or fear.
Grooming refers to the actions of an individual who builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.
Stalking online is a form of harassment which can involve persistent and frequent unwanted contact, or interference in someone’s life
Virtual mobbing takes place when a number of individuals use social media or messaging to make comments to or about another individual, usually because they are opposed to that person’s opinions. The volume of messages may amount to a campaign of harassment.
Phone call and text offences
These are the same as those mentioned above for Social Media Offenses.
Why do people troll?
(An article from BBC bitesize)
The internet has given us many wonderful things: instant messaging, movies on demand, online gaming, BBC Bitesize…
But the internet has also brought new ways of communicating negatively that weren’t possible when memes were delivered by carrier pigeon.
We’re talking internet trolls.
In children’s stories a troll is an angry, anti-social monster hiding under bridges ready to snatch up goats called Billy. Instead of under bridges, internet trolls hide behind their computers or phones, and go out of their way to cause misery online.
Trolls are people who leave intentionally provocative or offensive messages on the internet in order to get attention, cause trouble or upset someone.
What types of trolls are there?
Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), an NGO that has produced a practical guide for public figures dealing with trolls called ‘Don’t Feed the Trolls’, said there are two main types of troll.
The first type of troll targets public figures with large social media followings in the hope that they respond.
The trolls then have their hateful messages re-broadcast to a wider audience when the target of their trolling, or their followers, respond.
The other type of trolls are people who exhibit a psychological trait known as ‘negative social potency’ – this means they enjoy causing harm to others:
“These trolls get pleasure from upsetting those they target with abuse, so if their victim responds it only encourages them to continue,” said Imran.
Why do people troll?
There are many reasons why people might troll online, and it’s different from one troll to the next.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction at Nottingham Trent University said: “Most people troll others for either revenge, for attention seeking, for boredom, and for personal amusement.”
“They want to lash out at people who are being successful, who are happy, who are enjoying their life because they can’t,” said Olivia Callaghan, a mental health and self-love advocate.
“I think people troll because they’re insecure in themselves, they want to get a kick out of being negative towards someone else,” said Fatima Timbo, a dancer and model.
How does trolling affect people?
It might seem like there are no consequences due to the anonymity that the internet can provide, but there are consequences for the person you are targeting, and for yourself.
It can cause heightened levels of anxiety and lower self-esteem for the victim.
“Trolling hurts people, it affects people’s mental health,” said Fatima.
Rosie and Liv both described how trolls made them question aspects of their appearance that they never had a problem with before.
“They can highlight insecurities you already have and create new ones,” said Liv.
“I’ve never had a problem with myself before, I’ve never thought I had a big nose or a big forehead, so why should I let these people change the way I feel about myself now?” said Rosie.
Is trolling the same as cyber-bullying?
Cyber-bullying is the bullying of another person using the internet, mobile phones and other digital devices. Cyber-bullying can take the form of posts on forums or social media, text messages or emails, all with the aim of hurting the victim.
Dr Griffiths sees trolling as a form of cyber-bullying.
According to Imran, “trolling is generally about provoking a reaction, whether that’s because trolls enjoy seeing people hurt or because they want to be amplified.”
What should you do if you’re being trolled?
We asked CCDH for some advice on what to do if you are being trolled:
- Don’t respond
- Block the trolls’ accounts
- Don’t post online that you’re being targeted
- Take some time out from social media.
- If the abuse you receive makes you feel at threat or is otherwise unlawful – report it to the social media platform and the police.
If you need support
You should always tell someone about the things you’re worried about. You can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult. If you’re struggling with your mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help. Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.
If you’re in need of in-the-moment support and are young, you can contact Childline, where you can speak to a counsellor. Their lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
How to report stalking or harassment
Whatever age you may be. If you, or someone you know, has been a victim of stalking or harassment there are a few different ways you can report it to the police.
We understand it can be difficult. Police officers and partner organisations are here to listen and work together to support you in any way we can. Importantly, your information could help us bring the offender to justice and make sure you, and other people in a similar situation, are kept safe.
Is it an emergency?
If the caller is making direct threats to you or your family and you believe those threats to be real and immediate, you must:
Call 999 now and ask for the police. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, use our textphone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.
Report online – Many forces across the country now have online reporting services. If you’d rather report online, find out which forces have online services.
If there is not an immediate threat
Call 101 – If you’d like to talk to someone, our national non-emergency telephone number is staffed 24/7. Call us on 101 and report what happened or just get some advice.
Visit a police station – If you’d like to speak to an officer in person, we can provide a safe and comfortable environment at any of our police stations.
Staying in touch
The Police will stay in contact with you and throughout the whole investigation.
What if it becomes intolerable?
In some cases, victims of stalking or harassment may need temporary or longer-term housing alternatives. It might be that you need an injunction to prevent the perpetrator approaching you, or perhaps need counselling or support.
The Police work alongside highly trained non-police advisers who can assist with aftercare for you and your family.
If you need to attend court for any reason there are also support services available so that you don’t feel overwhelmed or alienated by the legal process.
Report a crime on someone else’s behalf
If someone you know has been the victim of stalking or harassment and doesn’t feel able to speak to the police yet, please report it yourself using any of the methods above. We’ll record the incident and help you to support the victim if needed.
Provide information anonymously
Information provided anonymously via Crimestoppers is extremely valuable in helping us plan how we police each area.
You can contact them through their website or by calling 0800 555 111.
In most cases it is always better, if possible, to talk to the perpetrators and try to solve the problem over the table.
If it is felt that intervention may help :
- Ask the individual/s to come to the table so they can express their issues. Noting that the charity takes a strong view of being transparent and above-board.
It is important that the people at the table in the first instance, are not those being mentioned in the alleged abuse or wrongdoing.
- Ask for the specific details of the allegations and details of any witnesses so the allegations can be verified. Point out that this is necessary if the allegations are true as they will be required should any action be necessary following the investigation.
- Wherever possible, show the accuser/s proof/s that they have miss-understood the situation or been fed false information.
- If the allegations cannot be verified notify the accuser/s that they themselves maybe guilty of false allegation and harassment under the malicious communications act and that if they continue their actions we will block them from all our accounts, if they are members of the charity it will be terminated forthwith and that we will pass the information of harassment to the police.
If intervention is not possible then follow the procedures mentioned above under the section: ‘How to report stalking or harassment.’
The ‘Online Safety Bill’ is currently still going through Parliament. It is a new set of laws to protect children and adults online. It will make social media companies more responsible for their users’ safety on their platforms. If this receives Royal Assent it may affect the information above.
This document has been produced with information supplied by:
Ofcom – Abusive and threatening calls