I was watching the BBC drama Undercover on Sunday with Mrs Flavourfy (it’s not bad for a legal drama). The main character Maya was starting her new job as Director of Public Prosecutions and she walked into the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) offices in London and I said to the wife “I’ve been there”. In fact I’ve been to the CPS offices quite a few times in the past mainly due to meetings about internet crime policy and regulatory matters, something I did quite a bit of in my past career in internet and telecoms regulation.
Anyway, it got me thinking about some work I did with the DPP, Keir Starmer, back in 2012/2013 as part of the deliberations the DPP was having at the time about dealing with trolling and threatening posts on social media. I attended in my capacity, at the time, as Chair of ISPA. The talks had been instigated on the backlash of the controversial ‘Twitter Joke Trial‘ where Paul Chambers was prosecuted for tweeting his (joking) intentions to blow up an airport. At the time of this trial and the discussions with the DPP the issue was that there were no clear guidelines for prosecutors on how to deal with increasing numbers of inappropriate content being posted on social media that could be considered a breach of the 2003 Communications Act and too many prosecutions could be considered not in the public interest and harmful to free speech. The conclusions to the DPP deliberations were a set of guidelines for prosecutors published in 2013.
It’s amazing to think that in the past I’ve been involved in all kinds of policy discussions and decisions about the use of the internet and services run over the top of the internet, and here I am now advising businesses about the best ways to use social media and digital technologies for their businesses. And, in some ways there’s an overlap with this past experience because businesses need to be careful what they say online too (albeit for different reasons): if they get it wrong then they’re doing so via a public forum and could go viral for the wrong reasons – just read this article in Our Social Times to see some of the big mistakes large brands have made over the years using social media: badly timed posts, inappropriate use of trending hashtags on Twitter.