Metropolitan police launch "Online Hate Crime Hub"
The Metropolitan Police are to set up a two-year pilot scheme involving five officers and a team of volunteers to identify online abuse and support victims. Based in London, the team will filter and identify online hate crimes (hostile offences aggravated by reason of the victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity) and allocate cases to the appropriate local force.
The ‘Online Hate Crime Hub’ will focus on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and seek to enforce a consistent approach to tackling these crimes whilst developing a relationship with the companies that run the websites. The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime has said that hate crimes have a larger impact over online mediums and that it is often harder to "bring [the perpetrators] to justice". The scheme aims to strengthen the police and community response to this growing crime type.
This initiative is not universally popular. Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron MP has said that the police are essentially "turning themselves into chatroom moderators" and is concerned that scheme may undermine freedom of expression.
Social media platforms are keen to been to be taking a proactive approach alongside the police. YouTube (owned and operated by Google) and Twitter, amongst others, have signed up to a European Commission code of conduct this June, agreeing to remove hate speech from their networks within 24 hours of it being posted. Twitter additionally updated its terms and conditions to explicitly ban ‘hateful conduct’.
The pilot scheme is set to cost around £1.7m, just over £452,000 of which was provided through Home Office funding. If effective, the scheme could be expanded.
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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.