2018-05-12 10:48:34 UTC
UK Proposes Prison Time For Offensive Online Posts
The Sentencing Council for England and Wales has drafted new guidelines
proposing prison sentences of between 26 weeks and six years for social
media posts deemed hostile toward a race, religion or sexual identity.
The proposals have been made in relation to the Public Order Act, which
prohibits all activities "intended or likely to stir up hatred" against
minority groups, including transgender people. Many of the examples in the
document reference social media use.
Those "in a position of trust, authority or influence" abusing their
position to stir up hatred are facing the harshest sentences. The suggested
punishment will also be more severe if the offender has a particularly large
online following or if he or she is associated with any groups promoting
hatred based on race or religion.
Three types of offences are considered the most serious. The first of these,
understandably, are "cases where activity is encouraged which threatens or
endangers life." However, more surprisingly, the other two categories are
"cases involving widespread dissemination of material and/or a strong
likelihood that many would be influenced."
"Volumes of these offences are extremely low and there have been no
offenders sentenced for some offences," the document says. However, the
Council still believes that the use of social media channels as vehicles for
hate crimes is a growing problem, "given the recent social climate and an
enhanced focus on this type of offending." Their proposals are the start of
a three-month consultation process.
In August last year, the UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that
it intended to punish online hate crime as seriously as personal,
face-to-face abuse. They threatened to treat offences via major social media
platforms the most strictly. In October 2016, CPS notably determined that a
hate crime needs only to be so perceived by a victim, without the need for
In January this year, Germany began enforcing a law demanding social media
companies to remove hate speech and fake news from their platforms. This
legislation is currently being revised, following criticism that press
freedom was negatively impacted, after more content was blocked than
necessary and a satirical magazine's account was suspended.