Internet ‘Asbos’ for hate crimes

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Published: Monday 9th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Social media users who persistently spread racial hatred online could be given “internet Asbos” blocking them from sites such as Twitter and Facebook under proposals to tackle rising levels of anti-Semitism.

A group of MPs called on the Crown Prosecution Service to examine whether prevention orders similar to those which can be used to restrict sex offenders’ online access could be applied to hate crimes.

They could be imposed to bar “determined” perpetrators from social media, the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into anti-Semitism suggests.

The panel, which was convened following an alarming rise in incidents against Jews during fighting in Gaza and Israel in July and August, said social media platforms have “increasingly been used for the spread of anti-Semitism”.

The report said “Hitler” and “Holocaust” were among the top 35 key words used on Twitter last summer.

Highly abusive posts on the microblogging site were singled out, including the hashtag “Hitler was right”, which was trending in July, as well as the “presence of Hitlerian themes and imagery on Facebook”.

The report said: ” There is an allowance in the law for banning or blocking individuals from certain aspects of internet communication in relation to sexual offences.

“Informal feedback we have received from policy experts indicates that this is a potential area of exploration for prosecutors in relation to hate crime.

“If it can be proven in a detailed way that someone has made a considered and determined view to exploit various online networks to harm and perpetrate hate crimes against others then the accepted principles, rules and restrictions that are relevant to sex offences must surely apply.”

It comes after Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo admitted they “suck” at dealing with abuse and so-called trolling, vowing in an internal memo to “start kicking these people off right and left”.

The MPs report said: ” Given the scale of social media content produced on a daily let alone minute by minute basis, we have some albeit limited sympathy for the companies that are responsible for hosting it.

“Whilst there is rightly an expectation on those companies to act as there is on government, police and prosecuting authorities, so too civil society has a crucial role to play.”

The panel outlined measures to tackle online abuse as it called for “urgent action” from Government, police, prosecutors and the Jewish community to combat a “disturbing” rise in antisemitism.

Last week figures released by the Community Security Trust (CST) – a charity that monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for the Jewish community in Britain – showed there were a record number of anti-Semitic hate incidents in the UK last year.

Data from the Metropolitan Police supplied to the panel showed that there were 306 anti-Semitic incidents and 236 offences in London between April and November last year.

The issue has come under renewed scrutiny following the Paris terror attacks in which a Jewish supermarket was targeted.

Other proposals in the report include:

:: Setting up a government fund to cover the costs of security at synagogues.

::Carrying out fresh research on identifying and explaining anti-Semitic themes in language.

::Establishing on independent council on anti-Semitism.

::Providing guidance for teachers on handling the Middle East conflict in the classroom.

Labour MP John Mann said: “This report is a plan of action and a work programme for parliament and government.

“It is the responsibility of parliamentarians to take the leads in this fight. Whoever is in power… can be on notice that we expect it to be the basis of their work programme on tackling antI-Semitism and the new government will be held to account on its delivery.”

Prime Minister David Cameron described the report as “hugely important”.

He added: “Tackling anti-Semitism goes right to the heart of what we stand for as a country.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the Paris attacks are a “stark reminder of the evil that anti-Seminitism can create”, adding that the report is “timely and raises important areas for action to eradicate this awful form of hatred”.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe said the force have taken steps to provide “additional reassurance” to Jewish communities in recent weeks.

He said: “The best way of helping police is to report all hate crime. However, as this report indicates, we need a wider response than the police and criminal justice system can deliver alone, we need society to become as vocally intolerant of faith-hatred as it is of other forms of discrimination and a clearer understanding of where freedom of speech oversteps the mark.”

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis welcomed the report, saying it “could not come at a more opportune time”.

He said: ” The threat against the Jewish community is real and anxiety remains high following recent events in France and elsewhere.”

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “The Government has introduced a range of measures to ensure Britain provides a safe environment for Jewish people and these figures are a depressing reminder that there is still much work to be done.

“We remain staunchly committed to tackling anti-Semitism wherever it occurs and will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach. Those who perpetrate hate crimes of any kind will be punished with the full force of the law.”

Published: Monday 9th February 2015 by The News Editor

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