The punishments are also based on the individuals with a larger social following and those “in a position of trust, authority or influence and abuses their position to stir up hatred” and if an ” offender was a member of or was associated with, a group promoting hostility based on race or religion” their sentence will be harsher.
The Council argues that as social media usage continues to become more prevalent, these punishments are needed to silence offenders.
“Volumes of these offences are extremely low and there have been no offenders sentenced for some offences. However, given the recent social climate and an enhanced focus on this type of offending, the council considers it would be useful for sentencers to be equipped with guidance on sentencing these offences,” said the Sentencing Council. “Among the cases analysed there were a number of ‘hate speech’ type offences, where inflammatory speeches were given by influential figures with the intention of stirring up racial hatred. Other cases involved publication on YouTube of content inciting serious violence towards particular racial or religious groups, websites being published including abusive and insulting content, with some activity continuing over a long period of time and intended to reach global audiences.”
An example of a recent sentencing is the case brought against Mark Meechan, a Scottish YouTube personality known as Count Dankula online. He posted a video in 2016 of his girlfriend’s dog raising its paw for a treat, which some users claimed were Nazi salutes. He faced two months in prison but was ultimately fined $1,200 in late April.
“Only three years for hate speech that leads to people getting killed? Ridiculously soft,” said Professor Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies. “But six months for “hate trolling”? Are there enough prison places to lock up these hate trolls?”
Censoring social language is a trend in Europe. Germany has required Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks to remove “hate speech” posts from users.
One of the political groups being targeted is the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, an anti-immigration party that has gain traction in the last few years in response to the Migrant Crisis.
It was the first anti-euro party to win seats in the German regional parliament.
Other parties have gone as far as to call the AfD political extremists and the German interior ministry is likely surveilling the political party and now it appears as though they are censoring the group’s social activity.
Author’s note: In the UK, one can now be sent to jail for expressing an opinion, even if that opinion is horrific. But this is a “slippery slope” that could lead to free speech being done forever. Just because a person doesn’t agree with a person’s stance, it does not mean they are criminals and it doesn’t even mean they are wrong. We don’t agree with the liberal media for their biased news reporting and for creating false narratives, but they have the right to freedom of speech. I can understand policing cyber-bullying, especially with children involved, but censoring opinions is going too far. Not to mention, “hostile” language isn’t clearly defined and it depends on an official’s interpretation.