A hate crime is an offence motivated by ‘hostility and prejudice’ including racism, sexism and homophobia. Recently, there have been calls to make sure offenders committing hate crimes receive the same charge, for both offline and online offences.
The Crown Prosecution Service claims that Tweets are as bad as shouts, and Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders believes online abuse fuels ‘dangerous hostility’. Saunders explains that the recent clashes in Charlottesville are an example of this. The internet and social media are merely ‘new platforms’.
In December 2014 Scotland’s Crown Office reported that what is said online should have the same repercussions as if it were said on the street. The question is really, how can one legally battle the spread of online hate crimes.
Labour Councillor Seyi Akiwowo is calling for ‘a big campaign about proper conduct online.’ If we can engage the masses in this campaign, hate crimes could be reduced.
And finally, CPS has released new legal guidance that cases should be treated with the same ‘robust and proactive approach used with offline offending’. Exceptions may only be given to children who may not understand what constitutes a hate crime.
Raised awareness of the impact of hate crimes on victims online, could lead to more legislation or harsher punishments for online hate crimes in the future. We will just have to wait and see.