The penalty for crossing the line online can be pretty severe – as internet troll Colm Coss discovered to his cost last week.
Mr Coss, 36, from Ardwick, was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison for persistently leaving vicious and hurtful messages on tribute sites for the deceased. Among his targets were a Facebook page for the late reality TV star Jade Goody, who fell victim to cancer last year, as well as sites dedicated to a dead baby in America, the victim of a fatal car crash in Australia and a Canadian murder victim.
According to reports in the local press, Mr Coss was said to have found the comments "amusing" . They gave him no sexual arousal but "he enjoyed the comments made in reaction".
Passing sentence, Magistrate Pauline Salisbury noted that Mr Coss had not expressed any regret for his actions and that he had even "derived pleasure" from hearing details of his crimes read out in court.
According to sentencing guidelines, the appropriate sentence would be 12 weeks in prison. However, Ms Salisbury felt that the seriousness of the offences required he serve 26 weeks, reduced to 18 weeks for his early guilty plea.
A request by the defence that there should be a further report into Coss' mental state before sentencing – on the ground that he "had a history of mental health issues" – was dismissed.
Mr Coss was sentenced under s127 of the Communications Act 2003, which makes it an offence to send messages that are "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character".
Coss's identity became known when he circulated a leaflet to his neighbours boasting of his status as an "internet troll". ®