British authorities are promising to prosecute “hate crimes” committed online as vigorously as those that take place face-to-face, claiming that online hate crime is a major problem.
New Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) guidelines issued Monday outlined a tough stance on “hate attacks” on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms on the basis of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or “transgender identity”.
In addition, the guidance for the first time recognizes “hate crimes” against bisexuals as distinct from homophobic or “transphobic” attacks.
“These documents take account of the current breadth and context of offending to provide prosecutors with the best possible chance of achieving justice for victims,” Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, said in a statement.
“They also let victims and witnesses know what they should expect from us.”
She also said she hopes the new plans will see more prosecutions, with longer sentences for those convicted if a jury or judge can be convinced the crime was motivated by hate.
After the releasing the new guideline, the CPS’s official Twitter feed ran an online poll asking users to tell them how to respond to “hate crimes”.
— TellMAMAUK (@TellMamaUK) August 21, 2017
Reporting the story, BBC News featured an interview with a transgendered individual who claimed that being “miss-gendered” online was a damaging crime.
Saunders also told The Guardian the crackdown is needed because online abuse can lead to the sort of extremist hate seen in Charlottesville in the United States last weekend.
Writing in the paper, Saunders said: “Left unchallenged, even low-level offending can subsequently fuel the kind of dangerous hostility that has been plastered across our media in recent days. That is why countering it is a priority for the CPS.
— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) August 21, 2017
“Whether shouted in their face on the street, daubed on their wall or tweeted into their living room, the impact of hateful abuse on a victim can be equally devastating.”
Separate “hate crime” guidelines from the CPS release in January reaffirmed that no evidence is needed to report a “hate crime”, and they only need to be “perceived” by the alleged victim.
“In order to treat a crime as a hate crime for the purposes of investigation, there is no need for evidence to prove the aggravating element”, the guidelines read.
— SouthYorkshirePolice (@syptweet) August 21, 2017
(AP contributed to this report)