Time to redefine free speech?

The monstrous comments appearing on some social media websites following the murder of two police women in Greater Manchester is unacceptable. The laws are not tough enough to deal with those 'trolls' who are causing so much distress not only for the victims' family friends and colleagues, but for any decent-minded person who reads them.

We now need to have a rigorous debate on what constitutes 'freedom of speech' and to strengthen our laws to protect the innocent. But, I don't believe this should include arming every police officer, as some have called for. The debate is not about personal freedoms but about having respect for other people and contributing to the greater good of society, including the online information society in which we now all live. Only this morning I heard that the Crown Prosecution Service will not take any further action against the Twitter troll who made disparaging remarks about Olympic diver Tom Daley. The reason given was that the troll didn't intend Tom Daley to see the remarks he made. For goodness sake, he made the remarks on Twitter, one of the world's leading social media websites and where Tom has a very popular following! What did he expect?

I don't like laws for the sake of laws, and I certainly don't believe in governments meddling in our private lives. But we are reaching a tipping point where we need to redefine who we are and what we are trying to achieve as a society. Social media seems to trade all that is good and is bad within us, self therapy without the consultant's fees but where we still need to face up to facts.

People will find it uncomfortable to challenge precious-held rights, but we do live in a world where laws do exist to protect the innocent. Maybe the real role of social media is to act as catalyst to change.

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