Internet trolls posting humiliating or derogatory hashtags and images online could face criminal charges under new legal guidelines to allow social media to be more stringently policed.
‘Virtual mobbing’ - or inciting people to harass others online - is one offence included in the new guidance issued by the Crown Prosecution Service.
This is not the first step to increase punishment for online abuse. A law against revenge porn, where people post explicit messages or images of ex-partners, has led to the prosecution of 206 people across England and Wales since its introduction in April 2015.
Ways people might ‘virtually mob’ include creating a hashtag or retweeting messages to encourage harassment of someone online.
The rules also state that unacceptable online behaviour includes posting "disturbing or sinister" edited or captioned images of someone on social media.
The CPS has also announced plans to tackle online hate crime in a 13-week long consultation.
Earlier this year it was revealed that one in four teenagers were abused online because of their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability or transgender identity.
Other issues the new guidelines cover include underage children sexting each other.
The CPS said no prosecution should be pursued if images are sent between two children in a relationship who are a similar age and have consented to the images being shared.
People can also now be prosecuted for ‘doxxing’ and ‘baiting’.
Doxxing is when people publish personal details about others online such as their home address or bank details.
Baiting is humiliating someone online by branding them as sexually promiscuous.
Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, told Radio 4’s Today programme that people cannot escape prosecution simply because they thought their comments were anonymous.
She said: "If you are grossly abusive to people, if you are bullying or harassing people online, then we will prosecute in the same way as if you did it offline."