The UK Crown Prosecution Service announced recently that online hate crimes are to be treated just as seriously as crimes committed face-to-face. It’s a crazy idea, says Clare Foges in The Times. For an offence to be classed as a hate crime, it is necessary only that the victim or someone else perceives it as one. Given that half of social media is “a carnival of bile”, how is this policy remotely practical? Will the police have to pursue people over the use of an “offensive emoji”?
At a time when crime in England and Wales has risen by 10% in a year, knife crime by 20%, gun crime by 23%, the police can ill afford to waste time chasing online bigots. Trolls should of course feel the full force of the law when their online abuse threatens real-life harm to an individual, but the law already provides for that. The threshold for action should remain at genuine threats or a clear incitement to violence, and we should ignore “the whole world of mud-slinging below this level”. The great thing about the internet, after all, is that “you can always switch it off”. (Clare Foges, The Times, London)
From time to time one gets hate or other disruptive comments. But you can block the sender and zap the comment. If you are trying to promote the thoughts of Epicurus, which include moderation, thoughtfulness, good manners and consideration for others, it is a shock to encounter these nasty, anonymous people, but one gets over it after a beer or two. What you cannot switch off is the dangerous driving (both in the UK and the US) on roads and streets. The police have disappeared everywhere from day-to-day traffic monitoring, but it is becoming physically dangerous to cross a road, as drivers gaze at their phones and pay little attention to pedestrians. You won’t be killed by an internet troll (I hope!), but sloppy driving is another matter. At least in the UK you are banned driving if you fail to stop for pedestrians on a zebra crossing; in America these crossings are routinely ignored. This is where we need more police attention. Roll on the automatic car!