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Online Hate Crime and Abuse – is there a solution?

The new football season is now back into full swing and with-it racism and vile abuse has returned.

Having spent the last few years dealing with vile abuse, including racism and anti Semitism targeted towards Politicians, I believe that the blaming of Social Media platforms achieves very little.

When I became a Scotland Yard Detective, one of my mentors drilled into me the importance of fully understanding the issue I was dealing with before considering how to solve it. Unfortunately, this process is often ignored when dealing with these issues, and so the finger of blame has been pointed very squarely at Social Media platforms, in particular Facebook and Twitter. For reasons best known to them, some choose to hear the facts that suit their agenda and then drive policy based on false information, misdirecting the public debate and in effect causing a moral panic. The truth is that the significant majority of abuse and threats that are sent are not communicated via Social Media, but via email, by phone and other media.

Let me be quite clear, all abuse, whether motivated by hate or just being plain nasty should be called out, the sender identified and should always be unacceptable.

However, do we solve this issue by blaming Social Media? If the bulk of abuse is committed online, be that via social media, email or otherwise why are the service providers not being held to account? Perhaps what we should be doing is targeting them rather than the social media platforms it appears on.

Perhaps there is another solution. What if, rather than just having the offensive content removed from the social media platform, the sender is held to account and punitive measures are used? What if once the Internet Service Provider or the phone company that is used to send the content is identified, and from that the sender, they then have their account cancelled? The sender is then flagged as they do on insurance databases. That way, when they then apply to obtain a new online account in order to communicate online, the have to pay a significantly higher premium. There should be a price to pay for sending hate crime and abuse.

The truth is that having the content removed from a social media platform or having their social media account cancelled has no deterrent effect. Those who have this, usually just set a new account and carry on. The social media companies do their best. They try and track IP addresses to identify these individuals but is it is very easy to change your IP address several times a day.

Rather than blame the Social Media companies (which I have no connection with) the responsibility should be at the user level, and whilst I know that theses ISPs and mobile phone companies have introduced measures to stop they customers accessing child porn, why aren’t they held to account for what their customers do online, rather than the blame being passed on to a third party?

Defuse works with clients to limit their exposure to such abuse and when they are targeted by such abuse, identify the sender and hold them to account.

For more information…DEFUSE!

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