The Communications Act 2003 prohibits sending material over a “public electronic communications network” (aka the internet) if it is indecent or obscene in nature. The act does not specify whether the material is private (between two individuals) published (e.g. via the world wide web, or filesharing protocols). The act states;

Improper use of public electronic communications network

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a)sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or

(b)causes any such message or matter to be so sent.

(2)A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he—

(a)sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,

(b)causes such a message to be sent; or

(c)persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.

(3)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.

(4)Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply to anything done in the course of providing a programme service (within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (c. 42)).

Backlash Position

The internet and public networks are the de facto means of communication between individuals – other means, such as postal services are covered by separate legislation. The act essentially prohibits communication of material deemed by the state to be unacceptable, unless conveyed by private courier. Whilst malicious communications set out in (2) are welcome, as are provisions to prevent inadvertent access to sexual material, Backlash believes that (1) amounts to censorship and an erosion of civil liberty.