Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced a new national online hate crime hub to stop anti-Semitism and other forms of racism spreading across the internet.
The hub will be run by police officers for the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), who hope it will lead to faster removal of hateful online posts, as well as greater support for victims and a higher rate of prosecution for the perpetrators.
The idea behind the hub is to create an expert unit that will channel all reports of online hate crime and reduce the burden on frontline officers.
Rudd said it was “an important step to ensure more victims have the confidence to come forward and report the vile abuse,” adding that the hub will “improve our understanding of the scale and nature” of the problem.
She added: “What is illegal offline is illegal online, and those who commit these cowardly crimes should be met with the full force of the law.”
One of the hub’s main tasks will be to identify which force is responsible for further action in each case, removing uncertainties that can sometimes arise when, for example, a victim is located in one area and the alleged perpetrator in another.
Officers at the hub will assess whether the circumstances relate to a crime or non-crime incident, combine reports, identify the perpetrator and refer appropriate cases to online platforms hosting external content, such as social media companies, so that hateful material can be removed.
They will also feed any intelligence into the wider National Intelligence Model, the police database which gathers intelligence on a wide range of crimes, to guide policing strategies and inform forces’ priorities.
The new centre was welcomed by Jewish representatives, with Mark Gardner, communications director at the Community Security Trust (CST) saying social media and the online world were now “integral parts of our lives, both for good and for bad”.
Because of that, he said: “The CST certainly welcomes this latest development… The responses to these crimes must keep pace with the technology, the actions of haters and the experiences of those who are on the receiving end of it all. This is a potentially important step, but it is an ever moving situation and will doubtless need further developments before long.”
Representing the strictly Orthodox community in Stamford Hill, Levi Schapiro of the Jewish Community Council (JCC) said: “We welcome the new hate crime hub as part of a series of measures to strengthen the force against online hate crime, specifically anti-Semitism.” He said he had discussed this with Rudd last week, and had been reassured.
Last week Rudd told the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester that under new laws being proposed, those viewing terrorist material online could soon face up to 15 years in prison.