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The psychology of cybercrime
The psychology of cybercrime

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5.1 Where cybercrime and online anti-social behaviour meet

In some cases, behaviours labelled as trolling for instance, such as threats to rape and kill, or persistent harassment, can be clearly identified as possible criminal offences that should be investigated and potentially prosecuted. At the other extreme, there are online behaviours that fall within the above definition that are not criminal offences. For example, on forums or other internet sites it is quite common to see irrelevancies, pointless questions, arguments and suchlike that can all be forms of trolling. While these may be disruptive or aggravate other users, they do not seem to merit criminal justice responses.

There is currently no legislation that specifically targets trolling (at the time of writing, 2020). However in England and Wales there are a number of pieces of legislation that can be used to prosecute trolling, and the Crown Prosecution Service identifies the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003 as being the relevant legislation. Depending upon the content of the behaviour, other potentially relevant legislation includes the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. Even considering just England and Wales, the legislative framework for these offences is complex, and different jurisdictions handle these behaviours differently.

Having considered two extremes of trolling, this leaves a significant question as to where the line should be drawn between the offensive/annoying types of trolling and those that warrant a criminal justice response. At present there is not a clear answer to this question, but the issue of where to draw the line is something to be aware of when considering cybercrime.