A petition has been launched, addressing the UK parliament, to repeal Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 and legally exonerate all those who have so far been found guilty of transgressions and convicted under this legislation during the past decade.
View the petition here.
Those behind the petition explain that because of Section 127, people in the UK have been convicted for making jokes or having arguments on social media when those were found to be potentially or personally “grossly offensive.”
At the same time, the term has not been defined at all, the petition continues. The arbitrariness of the law and its potential to suppress free speech and adversely affect people’s real world lives when they are convicted with record means that Section 127 should be repealed, the petition said, asking the parliament to at the same time “acknowledge that the UK internet also shares our respect for people’s freedoms of speech and expression.”
If it receives 10,000 signatures, the petition will get a response from the government, while 100,000 signatures would make the topic a candidate for parliamentary debate.
The section in question concerns what’s termed as improper use of public electronic communications networks to commit “crimes” such as causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another – while the punishment can be anything from a fine, up to six months in prison, or both.
Experts fear that over the past years, Section 127 has been used to prosecute people for online behavior that would otherwise, even if upsetting to some people, be protected as free speech in a democracy. In fact in some cases when UK’s public prosecutors decided not to go after people accused of violating this section, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling in Handyside v UK was cited, which defines freedom of speech as the right to express thoughts that might offend, shock or disturb the state, or any sector of the population.
For this reason, and because it is broadly-worded and ambiguous, many have called for Section 127 to be abolished and another rule to take its place in order to deal with direct abusive electronic communications between two people, as has been considered a social ill since the beginning of the post and telephone era.