The UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has said that the Crown Prosecution Service will treat online hate crime as seriously as offences carried out face to face, and will seek tougher penalties and sentences for online abuse on social media platforms.
Crackdown On Online Hate Speech
Online hate speech has proliferated on (and been enabled by) social media in recent years, and trolling has resulted in misery for victims, and even suicides. With online hate speech and hate crime on the rise, the CPS has announced that it plans to erase the line between real-world , face to face offences and online abuse, and take into account the effects on the victim and on the community.
The reason for this new move by the CPS is the now widely accepted belief that, left unchallenged, low-level abuse (offending) can fuel dangerous and hostile hate crimes e.g. like those seen recently in Charlottesville in the US.
Different Experiences And Needs
In its new policy documents, the CPS covers many different types of hate crimes e.g. racist, religious, disability. The CPS has also now acknowledges that different victim types have different needs and experiences e.g. differences in the experiences of victims of biphobic crime (aimed at bi-sexuals) and victims of homophobic and transphobic offences.
As such, the CPS now intends to remove obstacles to justice for all kinds of victims in all kinds of hate crimes, and wants to ensure that (for example) disabled victims and witnesses get the right support they need to allow them to give their best evidence.
Hate Crimes Defined And Contextualised
According to the CPS, hate crimes are committed by a person motivated by hostility towards the victim’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity. The CPS has now prioritized hate crime because it recognises the corrosive and lasting impact that such crime can have on communities and citizens, and how it can drive people to change the way they live and to live in fear.
The new policy also takes into consideration the current breadth and context of the offence, giving the prosecutors the best probable chance of getting justice for the victims. It also lets the victims and witnesses know what they can expect from the CPS.
Public Encouraged To Report Hate Crime
The CPS is encouraging the public to report hate crime with confidence, knowing that the CPS will take them seriously and give them the needed support. Its campaign, #hatecrimematters, aims to educate and inform the public about the new policy by the CPS.
Although the Open Rights Group (ORG) broadly supports the idea of holding perpetrators of online hate speech / hate crime to account, it has warned internet companies against a blanket policing of online free speech.
For The Record
Currently, CPS has a record of 83.2% conviction rate in its completed 15,442 hate crime prosecutions, the highest figure thus far.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
The business world works best when customers, investors, and other stakeholders have confidence in companies, brands, products and services. Those businesses that supply platforms for, or enable the sharing / distribution free speech of any kind e.g. social media and web companies, are now supported in UK law by their common duty to provide a safe online environment for their users e.g. by removing hate speech promptly, and by making their part of the online environment particularly safe for children, young people, and the vulnerable.
Businesses and organisations of all kinds can help the common purpose of minimising online hate crime through education of their staff / pupils / customers / users / stakeholders about their own policies for the treatment of those discovered to be using hate speech e.g. at work online.
We can all play our own individual part in making the online environment safe for all by reporting hate speech where we find it, and, although the stance of open rights / free speech organisations such as the ORG is important, so is ensuring that the Internet is a safe place for all.