Free Speech

Texting Can Be Obscene, Says Judge

Texting counts as publishing for the purpose of obscenity laws, according to a British court

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You could be committing a criminal offence next time you discuss your deepest fantasies with someone online. Alarmist? Only slightly.

A ruling slipped out quietly by the Appeal Court earlier this year, and lurking in the background while the substantive case to which it applied came to court, makes it plain: the act of publishing as defined within the Obscene Publications Act can take place with an audience of just one individual.

That means it is therefore perfectly possible for the content of online chat, should a jury decide that it is capable of "depraving or corrupting", to be judged "obscene"—and as such for one or both participants in that conversation to be guilty of a criminal offence that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, and a stint on the sex offenders' register.