The Mayor of London has launched the UK’s first police online hate crime unit. The five-person Online Hate Crime Hub is based in West London and aims to improve the police response to online hate by gathering intelligence, improving understanding and testing new investigation methods.
The specially recruited and trained officers will help to identify, prevent and investigate these crimes, including abuse on Twitter and Facebook, says the mayor’s office.
The Hub was developed out of concerns from community organisations around the increasing use of social media and the internet to spread hatred against minority and vulnerable groups and individuals. It was granted £452,000 by the Home Office Police Innovation Fund, with the remainder of funding coming from MOPAC and the Met.
Once an online hate crime has been reported, it will be automatically referred to the Hub, which will provide referrals to specialist victim support partners and work with the relevant borough officers to carry out a thorough investigation. Discussions are also underway between MOPAC, Stop Hate UK and leading social media companies to develop appropriate online sanctions for perpetrators of online hate, where there is evidence of significant harm to victims.
Whilst between two and five per cent of hate crimes reported to the Met are online, community organisations suggest the number of offences may be much higher. Jewish organisation, Community Security Trust, cites 20 per cent, suggesting these incidents are significantly under-reported* and Tell MAMA, which measures Islamaphobic hate nationally, estimates that over 70 per cent of the reports it receives are about online hate. A key aim of the Online Hate Crime Hub is to build a stronger evidence base and better understanding of the scope, nature and scale of online hate, in order to tackle it.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“The Online Hate Crime Hub will work with community experts to develop the police’s understanding of online hate, helping officers tackle it more effectively and improving services for victims. We need to encourage more victims to report incidents, and explore new ways of identifying, preventing and challenging hate crime in all forms.”