‘One stop shop’ to help online abuse victims
POLICE officers will help victims of online hate crime to pressure Twitter and Facebook to take down abusive messages, Amber Rudd has said.
The Home Secretary pledged to establish an online hub that will allow internet users to lodge all reports of hate crime to drive up numbers of prosecutions.
Police will then help victims to refer “appropriate cases to online platforms hosting external content, such as social media companies, so that hateful material can be removed”, the Home Office has said. Twitter and Facebook have been under fire for not doing enough to deal with so-called trolls who send abusive messages to members of the public.
This “one stop shop” for reporting online abuse will be run by police officers for the National Police Chiefs’ Council who will work to ensure online
cases are managed efficiently. Ms Rudd said: “With the police, we will use this new intelligence to adapt our response so that even more victims are safeguarded and perpetrators punished.
“Online hate crime is completely unacceptable. What is illegal offline is illegal online, and those who commit these cowardly crimes should be met with the full force of the law.
“The national online hate crime hub that we are funding is an important step to ensure more victims have the confidence to come forward and report the vile abuse to which they are being subjected.
“The hub will also improve our understanding of the scale and nature of this despicable form of abuse.”
The new hub will allow victims to see which police force is responsible for their case, removing any uncertainty when victims and perpetrators are in different parts of the UK.
Specialist officers will provide expert case management and better support and advice to victims of online hate crime.
The hub will ensure all online cases are properly investigated and will help to increase prosecutions, the Home Office said. Victims will be kept updated throughout, as police forces seek to bring perpetrators to justice, officials said.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, the hate crimes lead at the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “Hateful abuse online can leave victims with significant psychological harm, but can also lead to more serious physical offences, so police need to be able to intervene at the earliest possible stage to reassure victims that we will act to protect them.
“This new national hub will enable a small team of specialist officers to significantly improve the service we provide to victims, reduce the burden on front-line officers, and help bring more offenders to justice.
“We recognise and will uphold the right to free speech even where it causes offence – but this does not extend to inciting hatred or threatening people.”
It follows proposals announced by the Tories last week for internet companies to be forced to hand over the contact details of online trolls who anonymously abuse MPs.