Prosecuting Social Media Hate Crime

Elizabeth Whittingham·24 August 2017·4 min read
Prosecuting Social Media Hate Crime

Plans have been announced this week to heighten the sanctions towards online abusers.

The plan is to make sure that prosecutors will be ordered to treat online hate crime as severely as if they were face to face incidents.

These plans have been revealed in the wake of incidents in America, with Charlottesville an example of how hate groups and abuse on line can lead to demonstrations and subsequent violence, with the death of Heather Heyer occurring last week.

Stiffer penalties will now be put into place against abuses on major social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Hopefully, these new plans will see greater penalties and more prosecutions for offenders.

In theory, the threat of life changing consequences from hateful social media actions will deter many online abusers from sending harmful messages.

The new policy covers a broad range of hate crime, from racial, religious and disability based, through to homophobic, transphobic and biphobic hate crime.

The majority of hate crime is now committed online and by targeting the violent hate where it happens, more people will hopefully be prosecuted and brought to justice for their actions, as the main concept of delivering hate online is that one can hide behind their user name.

The criminal justice system administrators are also prioritising messages which are posted online that detail threats to kill, maim or injure victims, as in some cases- these have been known to occur afterwards, outside of the internet.

This week the Director of Public Prosecutions has commented that hate crime numbers are constantly rising, especially after major public incidents, such as terrorist attacks or in the case of Britain voting to leave the EU.

These events witnessed hate crime levels rise dramatically, as both online and physical abuses rose by a staggering and rather terrifying 49%, between summer 2016- when Britain left the EU, through to summer 2017.

Hate crime is also seen to increase after terrorist attacks, with hate related and driven crime increasing fivefold in Manchester after the arena attacks, whilst atrocities against Muslims tripled after the London Bridge attacks.

There has also been a significant rise in anti-semitic crimes, both online and in person, with the Campaign Against Antisemitism claiming that 50% of Jews believe that prosecutors are not doing enough to combat perpetrators.

With hate crime appearing to be a very real and alarming problem in our modern day, alongside the overwhelming presence of social media in our everyday lives, there need to be stronger sanctions and consequences towards people who preach hate online.