An official written policy guidance that sets out when social media postings amount to criminal conduct has been published today.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service published the written guidance to ensure greater clarity between criminal and non-criminal communication.
The Lord Advocate has previously explained the legal boundary, particularly in the run up to the Independence Referendum, however the Crown Office hopes the written guidance will ensure absolute clarity that the offences are taken as seriously as crimes committed in person.
The Crown office say that if communications posted via social media are criminal in content, they will be treated the same way as those uttered or published in the non-virtual world would be handled.
They stated that they will not be prosecuting people for satirical comments, offensive humour or provocative statements.
As with any other offence, prosecutors may only instigate criminal proceedings where there is sufficient credible and reliable evidence and it is in the public interest to do so.
Speaking following the publication of the social media guidance, the Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC said:
“The rule of thumb is simple – if it would be illegal to say it on the street, it is illegal to say it online.
“Those who use the internet to peddle hate or abuse, to harass, to blackmail, or any other number of crimes, need to know that they cannot evade justice simply by hiding behind their computers or mobile phones.
“I hope this serves as a wake up call to them.
“As prosecutors we will continue to do all in our power to bring those who commit these crimes to justice, and I would encourage anyone who thinks they have been victim of such a crime to report it to the Police.”