Crown Prosecution Service Wants Online Abuse to Be Treated Like Face-to-Face Abuse

By Tom Pritchard on at

The Crown Prosecution Service has told prosecutors in England and Wales that online hate crimes should be treated as seriously as face-to-face abuse. Its revising its guidelines to show that tweeting abuse at people can be "equally devastating" as shouting it.

Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions, said that the CPS will be pursuing stiffer penalties for abuse on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media services. She claims a crackdown is needed because online abuse can lead to extremist hate like that seen in Charlottesville, which saw at least one counter-protester lose her life.

Writing in the Guardian, Saunders said:

"Left unchallenged, even low-level offending can subsequently fuel the kind of dangerous hostility that has been plastered across our media in recent days. That is why countering it is a priority for the CPS.

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."

She hopes the plans will lead to more prosecutions, and more serious offences if a judge and jury are convinced the crime was motivated by hate. The new documents cover the many different strands of hate crime, including those based on race, religion, disability, along with homophobia, transphobia, and for the first time biphobia.

The move to treat online offences more severely is because the CPS believes more and more hate crime is being perpetrated online. The main purpose is to protect people online, since that's where people spend a large amount of time. The second is the realisation that online abuse can have consequences in the real world by inciting people into carrying actual violent attacks.

Saunders says that the new guidelines, along with existing provisions, will offer a better deal to the victims of online abuse and ensuring they have more support and protection  - whoever they might be. [The Guardian]

Image: Wen Tong Neo/Flickr

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