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In 2019, John Anderson interviewed Konstantin Kisin. The discussion is transcribed by me. I is the interviewer and K is for Konstantin.

K: In Russia last year 400 people were arrested for things that they posted on social media. Obviously this country is very different. How many do you think were arrested in Britain for what they said in social media?
I: ...
K: Take a guess.
I: I've no idea.
K: 3300
I: Really? Arrested for things that they said on social media? ...

Were over 3000 people arrested in Britain for social media posts in before 2019?
What are the numbers today?

ref Youtube clip : (Note that the clip is posted 2022 and original video was published in 2020)

Edit: Please note that
1) The question is about the UK, so Russia is irrelevant.
2) This discussion took place before the current war.

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    I don't know the source of the 3300 number but here's one relevant data point. Essex local police department reports over 160 arrests per year for "malicious communications". And there are individual reported cases where social media posts are the cause.
    – Brian Z
    Dec 15, 2022 at 13:33
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    The UK numbers are probably based on the Malicious Communications act 1988 or section 127 of the Communications act 2003, both of which focus on indecent, offensive, or threatening communications...a better comparison would be how many were prosecuted for legitimate political dissent. Dec 15, 2022 at 15:24
  • 13
    Given various TikTok trends that literally involved posting self-incriminating evidence of crimes online, this number would not surprise me.
    – TimRias
    Dec 15, 2022 at 18:13
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    Clarification question: If someone beats someone up and posts evidence of it on social media and is then arrested, does that count as arrested for things that they posted on social media?
    – gerrit
    Dec 16, 2022 at 6:55
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    @Mazura America has plenty of similar laws, laws against stalking, harassment, public nuisances, ect. Harassment law in the US often specifically refers to annoying or distressing conduct.
    – John
    Jan 2, 2023 at 5:41

2 Answers 2

32

Not in 2020. In 2016.

The "3,300" figure is likely a reference to a 2017 piece in The Times.

More than 3,300 people were detained and questioned last year over so-called trolling on social media and other online forums, a rise of nearly 50 per cent in two years, according to figures obtained by The Times.

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    A good find. Could it be that the numbers are consistent in following years as well?
    – pinegulf
    Dec 16, 2022 at 10:52
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    This is probably the correct source for the claim. But detained is not the same as arrested, so the original claim is not fully accurate.
    – jpa
    Dec 16, 2022 at 10:59
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    @jpa tbf I've been a bit vague, as I can't access the whole article, but this is available openly (and is reflected also in the title): "Nine people a day are being arrested..." Dec 16, 2022 at 11:04
  • @pinegulf I don't know the change in figures; I would assume the quote though is reflecting that source as it is a little too coincidental, in which case it would be a misquote with respect to the year. Dec 16, 2022 at 11:07
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    @jpa detained and arrested is being used interchangeably, first 2 paragraphs: "Nine people a day are being arrested for posting allegedly offensive messages online as police step up their campaign to combat social media hate speech. More than 3,300 people were detained and questioned last year over so-called trolling on social media and other online forums, a rise of nearly 50 per cent in two years, according to figures obtained by The Times." 3300 people are 9/day.
    – Eugene
    Dec 18, 2022 at 6:18
52

I can't speak for the exactness of the figure, but it certainly seems plausible. According to this article about arrests for online posts in London 857 arrests were made in 2015 in London alone as a result of online activity. However this can include emails as well as social media. The reason is:

The Communications Act 2003 [which] defines illegal communication as “using public electronic communications network in order to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety”.

That's a very wide definition.

Offences include:

alleged sexual offences, including grooming, as well as complaints of stalking, racially aggravated conduct and fraud.

Note that there is no suggestion that any of the arrests are solely for posting things that disagree with the government. By contrast in Russia you can be arrested for saying online that Crimea does not belong to Russia. This is useful information because the claimant (Kisin) is clearly trying to compare UK and Russia.

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    @JoeW Unfortunately in this life where people regularly try to make claims that sound like they are bad but really aren't you always have to address the implied subtext of the claim. Dec 15, 2022 at 16:52
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    It's not "whataboutism". I'm pointing out how the categories of "arrests because of social media" are different in UK and Russia. Dec 15, 2022 at 16:59
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    @JoeW The original claim made the comparison to Russia, implying that the cases are similar. Point out that this is an apples to oranges comparison is therefor relevant to the answer. (Even if the OP thinks it is not.)
    – TimRias
    Dec 15, 2022 at 18:08
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    @JoeW The fact that the OP is not making a fair comparison is exactly my point. Dec 15, 2022 at 19:09
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    I'm not saying it couldn't be. I'm saying it shouldn't be. But you are free to disagree. Dec 15, 2022 at 19:50

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