Sadiq Khan at City Hall

Online hate crime targeted by new dedicated Scotland Yard police unit

Image credit: Press Association

At the inaugural Online Hate Crime Summit in London’s City Hall, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, announced the establishment of a police unit solely dedicated to tackling online hate crime and supporting its victims.

A detective inspector will lead five specially trained Scotland Yard officers in the new Online Hate Crime Hub.

The hub aims to improve the Metropolitan Police’s response to internet abuse, by gathering intelligence, testing new approaches to investigation and supporting victims of online hate crime.

The five officers will work with online platforms, social media companies, academics, community groups and partners in criminal justice to prevent and investigate incidents, such as racist and sexist abuse on Facebook and Twitter.

Online hate crimes, once reported, will be referred to the hub. The hub will provide referrals to victim support and work with local borough officers to carry out investigations.

Figures show that between 2015 and 2016, the number of reported hate crimes in England and Wales increased by nearly a fifth, with an average of 170 offences reported each day. Community groups, particularly those monitoring abuse directed at religious minorities, report that a significant fraction of incidents involve internet abuse, but these cases are under-reported.

Gina Miller, who took the government to court to fight the implementation of Brexit without parliamentary approval, has become a high-profile victim of online abuse since initiating her legal challenge. Police have made multiple arrests in connection with online rape and death threats and racist and sexist abuse directed at Ms Miller.

Sadiq Khan said that there must be “zero tolerance” of online hate crime and described how the unit would take on board advice from community experts and anti-hate organisations to help determine which incidents are harmful.

“We know hate crime has a huge impact on those who experience it and that online hate, where abusers mistakenly believe they are hidden behind a screen, can be particularly damaging,” Mr Khan said.

“We need to encourage more victims to report incidents and explore new ways of identifying, preventing and challenging hate crime in all forms.”

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, he reported, was holding discussions with social media companies and Stop Hate UK to develop “appropriate online sanctions” for perpetrators of online hate crime.

The programme, which will cost £1.7 million over its first two years of operation, will be funded mostly by the Metropolitan Police and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.

The Metropolitan Police Service is leading in modernising policing practices by incorporating technology, with its One Met Digital Policing Strategy.

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