Trolls who post damaging material online using fake profiles in the name of their victims can be charged under new advice for prosecutors.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is updating its social media guidelines to deal with offenders who use false online accounts and websites.
The advice means it may be a criminal offence for internet trolls to set up profiles under a victim’s name to share information which could damage a person’s reputation.
The CPS said trolls may be charged with offences including grossly offensive communication or harassment.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “Offenders can mistakenly think that by using false online profiles and creating websites under a false name their offences are untraceable.
“Thankfully this is not the case and an online footprint will be left by the offender.”
Twitter and Facebook have systems in place to report accounts which impersonate individuals or companies.
Twitter’s help centre says impersonation is a breach of its rules, and that accounts portraying a person in a “confusing or deceptive manner” may be permanently suspended.
Accounts established for the purposes of parody or commentary are allowed on the site.
Facebook says “impostor accounts” are banned.
The CPS has launched a six-week-long public consultation on the proposed changes to its social media guidelines.
Ms Saunders added: “Online communication is developing at such a fast pace, new ways of targeting and abusing individuals online are constantly emerging.
“We are seeing more and more cases where social media is being used as a method to facilitate both existing and new offences.
“It is vital that prosecutors consider the bigger picture when looking at evidence and examine both the online and offline behaviour pattern of the defendant.”