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UK stiffens maximum sentence for online harassment to 2 years

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The maximum sentence for a conviction of online harassment in the United Kingdom has been quadrupled to two years, reports The Daily Mail, a change made in light of a case involving abuse directed toward a professional model whose mother gave an opinion on a notorious sexual assault case.

Previously, the maximum sentence was six months; Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, said it is being quadrupled as a crackdown against "internet trolls ... poisoning our national life."

The case of Chloe Madeley called attention to the problem in the U.K. Her mother appeared on a panel show and opined that Ched Evans, convicted of rape in 2012, had commited a less serious offense because his teenage victim had not been physically harmed. Madeley defended her mother and was subjected to what Grayling called "online terrorism," principally through Twitter.

The U.K.'s online harrassment law is 10 years old; Madeley said updating its penalties was necessary considering the statute predates Twitter.

The U.K. has also been roiled by another high-profile Internet abuse case, the matter of Madeleine McCann, a missing child whose parents were hounded by trolls on social media. One of the trolls was found dead after being confronted about her behavior.