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'Criminalize offensive online comments'

Published: 14 Jan 2013 13:15 GMT+01:00

"We come into contact daily with people who feel their privacy has been violated on the internet," Göran Gräslund, head of Sweden's Data Protection Board (Datainspektionen) said in a statement.

"A general criminal penalty would be a tool to help deter these insults."

The agency submitted its recommendations after the government asked for a review of laws on freedom of speech and the press in Sweden.

Currently, websites operated by media companies are protected by free speech clauses included in Sweden's constitution.

However, other websites such as blogs can also claim similar constitutional protections from charges of defamation or slander if the publisher is registered with the Swedish Patent and Registration Administration (PRV).

The Data Inspection Board wants Sweden to adopt legislation to criminalize the posting of extremely offensive and insulting comments on websites regardless of whether they are covered by Sweden's free speech protections.

"It shouldn't make a difference whether serious insults and privacy violations take place within or outside of areas protected by the constitution," said Gräslund.

"A general criminal penalty would help create a balance between freedom of speech and protecting people's privacy."

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Your comments about this article

16:00 January 14, 2013 by Kevin Harris
Why limit this proposed law to the internet?

All offensive comments should be a criminal offence, inside Sweden and outside. Anyone in the world who thinks, says or writes anything that Sweden's Data Protection Board finds to be offensive should be criminalised.

That should sort the world out once and for all.
16:14 January 14, 2013 by Beavis
pffff bullying disguised as censorship.. if you dont like the comments just ignore it (like you will this one) otherwise its the first large nail in the nail of the cureent internet coffin. we whine about China not giving rights and here we are in Sweden wanting the exact same done.
16:51 January 14, 2013 by Kevin Harris
@ Beavis

Your message offends me. Therefore you are a criminal.
16:51 January 14, 2013 by Frobobbles
Error in the article: "constitutional protections from charges of defamation or slander". No, what the law means is that the publisher is legally responsible, and has to have an 'ansvarig utgivare' that takes the blame for what the reporters and commenters write.
17:50 January 14, 2013 by Beavis
@Kevin Harris exactly.. just means everything published in sweden will be controlled by the sensor, with the sensor choosing whats offensive and whats not.. It shounds like a red party wet dream, with them in control
19:01 January 14, 2013 by k2kats
It's possible to respect constitutional rights to free speech AND expect individuals to accept responsibility for that right.
19:51 January 14, 2013 by johan rebel
"It shouldn't make a difference whether serious insults and privacy violations take place within or outside of areas protected by the constitution,"

That's by far the stupidest statement I've read in ages!

Might as well abolish the entire constitution, then.
20:32 January 14, 2013 by truthcode
like in Cuba Communist ,world governments are bent on controlling people
21:04 January 14, 2013 by cogito
Sweden doesn't need government control, like Cuba. Swedish journalists practice auto-censorship.
07:05 January 15, 2013 by truthcode
so journalists communist then ,support from governments
08:21 January 15, 2013 by Frobobbles
Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!
09:32 January 15, 2013 by robban70226
smells like a censorship in the free expression, anything can be offensive and an insult even when you say that the weather is bad can offend some people,

be carefull with what you ask, you may get it.. think at the total implication of issues.
09:44 January 15, 2013 by engagebrain
If I call a politician and immoral thieving lying useless moneygrabber - the politician may find it offensive but I might claim that it is my opinion based on fact.

You can be sure that any legislation will in practice favour the powerful, the politician, over the average citizen.

There are also intractable problems with criminalising offensive comments - 'Jesus in not the son of god' will offend some Christians while the converse 'Jesus is the son of god' will deeply offend some Muslims.

For any restriction on free speach the bar has to be set very much higher than merely giving offensive as what is offensive is highly subjective and the truth can be offensive.
11:52 January 15, 2013 by Max Reaver
If this law is ever passed, it would be interesting to see how it works in practice. If someone posts another ridiculing cartoon about the Islamic prophet, will it be judged in favor of Muslims, who have all the rights and reasons to feel offended? To be honest, I don't trust the Swedish judicial system to make the right call on this one.
15:07 January 15, 2013 by truthcode
speak openly is against government(population control),Swedish are the first to lower the head.
15:24 January 16, 2013 by karex
This all sounded so strangely familiar...

Then I remembered: 1984!
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