The Law Commission is to look at whether technology has confused definitions in the law such as 'sender' as part of a government-requested review into the laws governing offensive online communications.

As part of a six-month review, the commission will look at how the Malicious Communications Act 1988 deals with offensive online communications and how the Communications Act 2003 deals with online communications. The commission will also look at what 'grossly offensive' means; whether the law requires you to prove fault or intention to prosecute offensive online communications; and how other parts of criminal law overlap with online communication laws.

The commission said it hopes to start work in the next few months and present its analysis before the end of the year, before moving on to a public consultation in 2019.

Professor David Ormerod QC, law commissioner, said: 'There are laws in place to stop abuse but we've moved on from the age of green ink and poison pens. The digital world throws up new questions and we need to make sure that the law is robust and flexible enough to answer them.

'If we are to be safe, both on and offline, the criminal law must offer appropriate protection in both spaces. By studying the law and identifying any problems we can give government the full picture as it works to make the UK the safest place to be online.'

The request to review legislation is part of the government's 'digital charter', published last week, to 'make the internet work for everyone'.

Today the prime minister announced that the government will introduce a new social media code of practice this year, and an annual internet safety transparency report.