The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has today published new guidance concerning prosecutions for those who use social media to spread hate and discord. The guidance covers such unsavoury online activities as common-or-garden trolling, 'baiting', under-age 'sexting', 'virtual mobbing' harassment campaigns, and 'doxxing' (encouraging harassment by revealing someone's personal details).
Today is the beginning of Hate Crime Awareness Week so it is a rather apt time for the CPS to issue this guidance. Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Alison Saunders, signed off the new guidance which also contains new sections concerning Violence against Women and Girls (VaWG), Hate Crime and vulnerable victims. The DPP said that while social media is designed to be a positive tool to educate, entertain and enlighten, some users twist its purpose for bullying, intimidation, and harassment. "Ignorance is not a defence and perceived anonymity is not an escape. Those who commit these acts, or encourage others to do the same, can and will be prosecuted," said Saunders.
The police and courts will use the new guidance to decide whether criminal charges will be brought against perpetrators of the above types of social media abuse. Individuals that participate in these online hate crimes could be charged with an offense under the Serious Communications Act 2007.
Today's new guidance comes in the wake of a major report earlier in the year that found one in four teenagers is subjected to abuse online. The Independent reminds us that the survey in that report suggested that 24 per cent of teens were targeted and abused on the internet due to their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability, or transgender identities. In 2015-16 more hate crime prosecutions were completed than ever before with four out of five prosecuted cases resulting in a conviction.
Beyond the above, the CPS today launches its Public Policy Statements on Hate Crime, which will be open to public consultation for the next 13 weeks.