FRIDAY, DEC. 21: Bermuda needs English-style rules on the use of social media like Facebook and Twitter, a social media consultant said yesterday.

The Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales warned on Wednesday that serious threats of violence, targeted campaigns of harassment and those which breach court orders will be hit hard.

But the DPP said that “grossly offensive” communications will only be prosecuted if they “cross a high threshold.”

Carla Zuill, co-founder of Go Social, which specialises in corporate social media strategy, marketing and management and a well-known blogger, said tougher rules in Bermuda were overdue.

Attorney General

Ms Zuill added: “I do think this needs to be examined – I think the Attorney General needs to look at it.

“Whether people want to accept it or not, social media is the primary means of communication between our young people and, at this point, it’s just a free-for-all.

“It’s not just Twitter and Facebook but BlackBerry Messenger, which is very popular in Bermuda.”

Ms Zuill cited a recent incident in Bermuda where an innocent man was wrongly labelled a paedophile which she said “spread like wildfire” on social media.

She said: “People use social media to express themselves, but it seems almost without boundaries and because there are no repercussions, people think they can get out of hand.”

Ms Zuill was speaking after the Crown Prosecution Service for England and Wales this week announced new rules on social media, designed to help police and prosecutors decide how to proceed with complaints about social media.

England and Wales Director of Public Prosecutions Kier Starmer QC said: “They make a clear distinction between communications which amount to credible threats of violence, a targeted campaign of harassment against an individual or which breach court orders on the one hand, and other communications sent by social media, e.g. those that are grossly offensive, on the other.

“The first group will be prosecuted robustly whereas the second group will only be prosecuted if they cross a high threshold — a prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest if the communication is swiftly removed, blocked, not intended for a wide audience or not obviously beyond what could be conceivably be tolerable or acceptable in a diverse society which upholds and respects freedom of expression.

“The interim guidelines thus protect the individual from threats or targeted harassment while protecting the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some and painful to those subjected to it.”

The toughening up of the law was welcomed by Javed Khan, the chief executive of Victim Support for England and Wales.

He said: “Victims tell us that sustained and vindictive targeting on social media can leave long-lasting emotional and psychological scars, so we warmly welcome clarification on how prosecutors will deal with online threats or harassment.

“The distinction between communications which constitute a credible threat and those which may merely cause offence is sorely needed.”

The new rules, drawn up after talks with social media providers, will run for three months and be subject to public consultation.