CPS to treat online hate crime as seriously as hate crime committed face to face

Today the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced its commitment for online hate crime to be treated the same as face to face hate crime. Glitch UK welcomes this harsher punishment and believes this announcement sends a strong signal that the criminal justice system must take online abuse seriously.

In 2015 the Malicious Communications Act 1988 was amended to include the offence of “sending letters etc with intent to cause distress or anxiety” and ‘internet trolls’ can be sentenced to a term of up to two years’ imprisonment. This new CPS guidance means stronger penalties for abuse on all social media platforms and hopes to offer more support and protection to victims than ever before.

We have seen an increase in online violence and hate speech particularly towards women, people of colour and political figures. This has been a consequence of, and enabled by, a number of events, the resurgence of far right movements across Europe and the USA; the UK EU Independence referendum and the rhetoric used during and now after the 2016 US Presidential Election.

Online abuse in all its forms are not just words or images on the screen and they shouldn’t just be ignored. Online abuse echoes behaviours in our reality we disapprove and do not tolerate, therefore we must not tolerate trolling and those that choose to spread hate online. We hope this harsher punishment will serve as an effective deterrent, provide consistency in punishment given and by sending a zero-tolerance message encourage an increase in reporting and prosecutions.

When we look back on this period of time, we want to be able to say that the rise in online abuse and online violence was only a “glitch” in our history.  UK Glitch believes that online hate crime is a vehicle for movements that aim to divide society and spread fear. We cannot afford for our generation and the next to become desensitised to any hate crimes. We want to cultivate the agency of young people and we want to start a conversation about the importance of our generation being responsible citizens online.

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