In our digital age, those tasked with our protection are finding a growing number of fronts on which to do battle. And as online trolling becomes more vicious and potentially more dangerous, the U.K. is stepping up its efforts to combat this new form of abuse. The London Mayor’s office recently announced the creation of a new specialized police force charged with investigating digital hate crimes, which will encompass content posted on Twitter and Facebook that is deemed abusive. The London-based team will be comprised of five officers who the BBC reports will “support victims and identify online abuse.”
Currently in a pilot stage, the program is slated to last two years, and will cost a total of 1.7 million pounds (around $2.2 million). A spokesman for the Mayor’s Office emphasized that there was “no place for hate” in London and further stressed “zero tolerance” for online abuse. Joining the five police officers in the so-called Online Hate Crime Hub will be a number of community volunteers.
According to the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC), social media “provides hate crime perpetrators with a veil of anonymity, making it harder to bring them to justice and potentially impacting on a larger number of people.” Moreover, the Office noted, victims of this kind of abuse risk becoming “isolated, living in fear of the online behavior materializing in the real world.” And because the current response from British authorities tends to be “inconsistent,” a task force specifically focused upon this kind of digital vitriol has become necessary.
Never before has a “dedicated police team” held the exclusive responsibility of responding to hate crimes, and officers will also help train other officials and community groups on how to identify, report, and challenge abuse, the BBC reports. “Community groups in London have told us that online hate crime is an issue of increasing concern to them,” the MOPAC spokesman added. So maybe this will be the first step towards a troll-free internet.