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Nominet educates 'accidental outlaws' about online risk

Nominet is backing a campaign to educate users about how British laws apply online. In the age of superinjunctions, users can potentially get themselves into trouble because of what they post to Twitter, Facebook or their personal blogs, or by sharing copyright content.

Nominet is backing a campaign to educate users about how British laws apply online. In the age of superinjunctions, users can potentially get themselves into trouble because of what they post to Twitter, Facebook or their personal blogs, or by sharing copyright content. These users may not be criminally inclined, but they can become 'accidental outlaws'. Young people aged 14-21 are "particularly at risk due to their high levels of internet usage". A new site, knowthenet.org.uk, has been set up to provide consumers with free advice.

The knowthenet.org.uk site commissioned YouGov to do a study of more than 2,000 consumers, to test their knowledge of online activities that could break the law. Examples included a libellous tweet about a celebrity, and incitement of violence on Facebook. The result: "on average, only 44% of people were able to correctly identify illegal activities when presented with a range of possible online scenarios including defamation, copyright infringement and hacking".

Phil Kingsland, the site's director, said: "The results of the study show a worrying lack of understanding of how the law applies online, particularly amongst younger age groups. In the past year we’ve seen many cases of people being convicted for offences committed online and, whilst there are those who set out to deliberately break the law and get punished, there are many others who could find themselves in trouble without realising they were doing anything wrong."

The site has launched a similar online test at knowthenet.org.uk/accidentaloutlaw so that people can check their understanding of how laws may be applied online.

The site's "top tips" include:

If you are going to say something negative about someone online, be absolutely sure it is true before you publish.

and

Don’t post jokes online that might be seen to encourage people to do something illegal or violent!

knowthenet.org.uk has also commissioned an infographic.

Although the site is aimed at consumers, knowledge of online laws is even more important to business users, especially if they are using Twitter accounts, Facebook and Google Plus pages that identify their businesses.

Nominet is the not-for-profit organisation responsible for the smooth running of the .uk infrastructure. Maintaining the directory of .uk domain names makes it one of the world’s largest Internet registries.

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