12 things you're doing online that you definitely shouldn't be

You might be surprised at what could land you in trouble.

The internet is a wonderful place where you can do pretty much anything you like. From making new friends to reconnecting with old ones, to watching your favourite TV shows and then doing your food shopping. Most of our activities involve it in some way.

But the web is still a confusing place in many ways, with different laws across different countries and no clear code of conduct in place meaning that the dos and don’ts are blurred.

Downloaded a movie from somewhere other than an official source? Tweaked your IP address to get different content? Or maybe even shared a GIF? In theory it can all land you in trouble.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common “didn’t realise it was illegal” web activities. You’ll never browse the same way again.

1. Tweeting IP addresses

Screenshot of an IP address
Tweaking your IP address can see you fall foul of the law (Flickr)

So you find yourself overseas and want to stream Netflix or iPlayer, what do you do? Some might have a mess around with their VPN in order to make it seem like they’re in the US or UK. Yep, that’s definitely not legal. Playing with your IP to make yourself anonymous is also a big no-no for obvious reasons surrounding accountability.

2. Bullying

Image of child using laptop
Cyber-bullying is taken very seriously (Peter Byrne/PA)

Seems like an obvious one, but the rules are stricter than you might think. In the US any communication that contains even the notion of a threat or suggesting violence – even in a sarcastic conversation, can be considered illegal. The punishment is up to 5 years in prison! Maybe cool the “banter”.

3. Torrenting

Screenshot of a torrenting website
Some of the things torrented online are what make it illegal (Flickr)

Yes ok, torrenting itself isn’t illegal – but most of the things that are torrented (music, movies) make it so.

 4. TV Streams

BBC iPlayer on a laptop
Streaming anyone other than official sources like iPlayer is illegal

Are you watching something online for free that isn’t from an official source like ITV Player? Yep, that’s illegal.

5. Using someone else’s WiFi

WiFi logo
Stick to the WiFi networks you know (Flickr)

We’ve all probably been there – your WiFi goes down and you notice someone nearby hasn’t got a password on theirs so you jump on and carrying on surfing. If it’s a non-public WiFi that means you’re not paying for it, which means you’re stealing internet. That one is definitely a crime.

6. Sharing GIFs and Memes

Grumpy cat meme
Some images, like this one, are available through Creative Commons and are free to use (Flickr)

This one surprised even us. While fair use can be argued, it is illegal to use copyrighted material without permission. Lifting it straight from the source will get you in the most trouble.

7. Password Sharing

Password screen
Sharing passwords is a big no-no (Toby Talbot/AP)

That’s giving someone unauthorised access to a service they haven’t paid for. You guessed it, that’s a crime.

8. YouTube Uploads

YouTube logo
Watch out for copyright when uploading YouTube videos (Yui Mok/PA)

Similar to the copyrighted photos earlier, uploading anything you don’t own the rights to might see the lawyers come knocking.

9. Taking selfies while voting

Selfies are fine, just not in polling booths (Brian Lawless/PA)

This made the news during the European elections earlier this year. Taking a selfie while in the voting booth breaches laws surrounding the privacy of voting. Go to Holland however, and voting selfies are all the rage.

10. Becoming anonymous

hands typing on a laptop
The government says going anonymous online is a precursor to crime (Steve Jacobs/AP)

This is seen as a facilitator for crime and as a result assuming a made-up name online is advised against, and can land you in hot water.

11.Using Facebook under the age of 13

Facebook logo
Facebook has an age minimum (Dave Thompson/PA)

This one is something of a surprise – Facebook users, according to the site’s terms and conditions, must be over the age of 13.

12. Making a parody account

Parody account on Twitter
Parody accounts must say so in their bio (PA)

According to Twitter, if you don’t declare in your account bio that you’re a parody then you leave yourself open to more visits from those pesky lawyers.

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