Is a Two Year Sentence Enough for Internet Abuse?

Is a Two Year Sentence Enough for Internet Abuse?

[ Note, 01/11/2014, 19:25 GMT: This article’s title is slightly different than its original. ]

It’s easy to condemn someone to prison for the rest of their lives, especially if their offense is by no means a small one. Numerically, however, a small number of years behind bars doesn’t seem all that much, and is therefore sometimes deemed as “not enough” by those who consider it as such.

The UK’s recent movement to quadruple the sentence for internet trolling and abuse, from just six months to a maximum of two years, should have come a hell-of-a-lot sooner (in my honest opinion), but will two years be enough for someone who has thrown unnecessary, disturbing and toxic abuse left, right and center towards fellow human beings?

As I established earlier, two years doesn’t seem all that long from a numerical sense, so I’d say it’s understandable if one’s immediate reaction is to say, “Nah, what that person did is nowhere near worth just two years!”. As much as I would like to believe that and just be done with it and carry on with my day, when I actually think about two years–at maximum–being the sentence for internet abuse, my rational self feels that’s enough. Let me explain why.

Before proceeding, though, please be aware that I am not condoning or defending internet abuse–I just want to try to offer an alternative perspective.

Right. Let’s move on.

I’m of the assumption that the majority of trolls are young, anywhere between, say, 8 and 25. It’s arguable that the first 20-odd years at least for an individual is incredibly important to their development and what they’ll be like when they’re much older. Two years taken away from this time of development can be–in the eyes of the beholder–almost irreversible to recover from, as two years (even a singular year, for that matter) is a really long time.

As you grow older, it’s generally said that your perception of time decreases, meaning that the years seem to pass by quicker. In my opinion, that’s only applicable when reflecting back on the months that have passed, and saying, “jeez, is it nearly Christmas already?” When actually living through those months, though, I’d say your perception of time increases, as it’s in the present and therefore continues: “gosh, when is it goin’ to be Christmas?!”

Two years to an individual that’s still young and learning (and not necessarily earning) can be absolutely detrimental to their development, as 48 entire months could be ripped from their lives during a time when they need it most. That’s 48 months of very important milestones missing, such as standardized tests, school dances, first kisses, first intimate experiences, first time living independently, first time attending college / university, and countless other things that shape an individual as they grow older.

48 months taken away from all of these milestones (and more), especially if the offender is really young, can stifle their development as a person and instil potentially life-long consequences, even after the two-year sentencing runs dry.

All this can go on while the offender’s victims grow older, maturer and tougher as they make use of the two years the offender otherwise won’t have. Having said that, as sad as it is to say, the damage that these internet trolls and abusers do to their victims is probably considered to be more significant than just spending two years behind bars, and victims subject to their abuse may never fully recovery. They may grow tougher and don a thicker skin, but they may never entirely recover for a very long time.

The childhood phrase ” sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me ” couldn’t be further away from the truth. Bones break, true, but words can kill. Words can damage, and words can change someone’s life for the worst. At least with a broken bone you’re soon back up and running, give or take a few months and perhaps some physiotherapy.

Is a Two Year Sentence Enough for Internet Abuse?

Considering that, I totally understand why just two years would seem to be not enough, especially when weighed up against the fact that exceptionally hurtful words can have the potential to kill, but while recovering and strengthening themselves against the internet abuse, victims will still have two years to enjoy and experience their life, while the offender is “rotting in jail”, so to speak.

But what if the abusers are much older than eight or 25, as in their 30s and 40s? What’s two years going to do to them? Well, quite a bit, at least as far as long-term consequences.

Applying to younger offenders as well, their two-year sentence would appear–permanently–on their employment record, making it difficult to find employment in the future. If they’re currently employed, then it would certainly damage relationships if they’re not outright fired. If they’re not employed, then they can’t earn, and that would compromise their ability to survive in the world. If they can’t find immediate employment or a benefits scheme thereafter, they’d have to eat into their savings, and that can only stretch so far.

Not to mention that there’d probably be familial disappointment across the board.

While it may not be as damaging to an individual who’s going through very important parts in their lives, being convicted for a crime, regardless of age, is still a pretty big deal–and an even bigger deal if it depends on the crime’s severity. Even of the offender is given a warning, they’d still carry long-term consequences with them. It’s because of this that I feel two years is enough.

But you might think differently, though. Do you think two years is enough for hurling awful abuse at someone over the internet? Let us know in the comments below!

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