New guidance for tackling online hate crime welcomed by community leaders

New guidance for tackling online hate crime welcomed by community leaders

Measures announced by the Crown Prosecution Service will seek to treat internet-based hate as seriously as if it had occurred face-to-face

Examples of far-right, and conspiratorial anti-Semitic material found online
Examples of far-right, and conspiratorial anti-Semitic material found online

Jewish representatives have welcomed new guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service on tackling online hate crime.

On Monday the CPS said it would treat online hate crime as seriously as if it had occurred face-to-face, and announcement new measures to support victims.

Writing in the Guardian, CPS director Alison Saunders said there were “huge questions” over how to combat extremism online but “no straightforward answers”.

She said many Brits may feel removed from the far-right march in Charlottesville, Virginia, or the terror attack in Barcelona, “but we should remember that there is a less visible frontline which is easily accessible to those in the UK who hold extreme views on race, religion, sexuality, gender and even disability”.

She added: “I refer to the online world where an increasing proportion of hate crime is now perpetrated. And this is why the Crown Prosecution Service today commits to treat online hate crimes as seriously as those committed face-to-face.”

Danny Stone, director of the Antisemitism Policy Trust, said this week’s updated social media guidance was “a welcome extension” of ongoing cooperation.

“Our prosecutors and judges should have a full and detailed understanding of how online hate operates so that they can deal with it appropriately including through the use of Criminal Behaviour or Prevention Orders,” he said.

“Whilst a single victim may be targeted, online hate does not work in a vacuum. The next step is for the social media industry to step up to the mark, put its money where its mouth is and deliver real changes for combating online hate.”

Figures recorded annually by the Community Security Trust (CST) show the increasing incidence of anti-Semitism online. In 2011, only 12 of the 609 recorded incidents were from social media, but in five years that figure has jumped to 287 incidents, almost a quarter of the total.

The CST has long said waves of hate crime are often set off by a “trigger event.” Anti-Semitic incidents have been shown to peak when Israel launches military action, and police statistics show that religiously-motivated hate crimes increased five-fold in Manchester in the weeks after May’s attack. Similarly, in the weeks following the terrorist attack at London Bridge, hate crimes against Muslims more than doubled.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism said its own poll showed that 52 percent of British Jews thought prosecutors were not doing enough to combat antisemitism, with less than four in ten confident that perpetrators would face a judge.

Stephen Silverman of CAA suggested that the CPS was lacking the willpower, not guidance, adding that increasing anti-Semitism was being met by decreasing prosecution rates.

“Unless the CPS changes its stance towards crimes committed against Jews, perpetrators will be emboldened to continue offending and Britain’s Jews will continue to worry that it does not have a long-term future in this country,” he said.

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