By Max Salsbury
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced new guidance for dealing with online hate crime – which means some the UK’s busiest and most frenzied bullies may have to find new ways to express themselves.
As a day rarely, if ever, passes without celebrities, politicians, sportspeople or random individuals being deluged in a storm of hate and death threats, the authorities have decided to act.
According to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, the recent events in the US town of Charlottesville, where racists clashed with protestors, have brought the situation to a head. She said: ‘Whether shouted in their face on the street, daubed on their wall or tweeted into their living room, the impact of hateful abuse on a victim can be equally devastating.’
Henceforth, threatening to rape, mutilate, murder or torture someone over the internet will be treated with the same gravity as if you’d done it face-to-face in the real world, the CPS says.
Though they no doubt sounded like terrific utopian communication systems on paper, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become perfect outlets for the thoughts and reflections of angry, miserable, bigoted people, for whom thinking things through in a calm, reasonable way is a challenge.
Indeed, Twitter came in for criticism itself yesterday in the form of a joint report by the Fawcett Society and campaign group Reclaim the Internet, which accused the company of failing to protect women.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who set up Reclaim the Internet, had this to say: ‘Twitter claims to stop hate speech but they just don’t do it in practice. Vile racist, misogynist and threatening abuse gets reported to them, but they are too slow to act so they just keep giving a platform to hatred and extremism. It’s disgraceful and irresponsible.
‘Twitter need to get their act together. Abusive content needs to be removed far more quickly and the company should be doing more to respond immediately to complaints and to proactively identify content that contravenes their community standards.’
Gina Miller, the bane of Brexit fans everywhere, was infamously abused online earlier this year by aristocrat Rhodri Colwyn Philipps, after he ‘joked’ about offering £5,000 to anyone who would run her over. The justice system didn’t find it funny and sentenced him to 12 weeks in prison.
If the CPS does manage to bring some genuine law and order to the feverish world of social media, what will become of all the simpletons? Where will they go? What will they do? Get communications jobs in the White House? The mind boggles.