Hate crimes committed on social media will be treated as seriously as similar street-based offences, according to new guidelines issued by the Crown Prosecution Service as they launch a crackdown on hate speech online.
Recognising the “corrosive effect” of hate crime on British society, Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, announced the CPS will now revise prosecutions of such crimes “with the same robust and proactive approach used with offline offending”.
The changes could lead to a dramatic increase in those being prosecuted for posting prejudice attacks on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Jenny Wiltshire, the head of general crime at Hickman and Rose solicitors, told The Independent the change in policy from the CPS reflects “the fact that the internet has become a breeding ground for misogynist, racist and homophobic views”.
She continued: “The decision to treat offences committed online no differently from offline offences will undoubtedly lead to an increase in prosecutions. It will also remind the trolling brigade that there are real consequences for hitting the button”.
According to the CPS the policy statements have been updated to take into account the mounting number of cases sparked by abuse on social media and covers all the different strand of hate crime, including religious and racist, disability, homophobic, biphobic and transphobic.
They added that between 2015-16, prosecutors completed 15,442 hate crime cases – the highest number ever recorded.