Theresa May to call for increased policing of online hate speech


Prime Minister Theresa May today will warn of online “intimidation and abuse” experienced disproportionately by women and minorities and announce government plans to tackle online hate speech.

In a speech in Manchester to mark the 100-year anniversary of women winning the vote in Britain, May will warn of a “tone of bitterness and aggression” that is “coarsening” public debate.

The prime minister, who last year commissioned an investigation into intimidation in public life, will endorse the recommendation that the impetus be put on tech companies to tackle online abuse.

“The social media companies themselves must now step up and set out how they will respond positively to those recommendations,” May will say. “So far, their response has been encouraging, and I hope they will continue in that spirit.”

May will announce new government measures, which include a new annual report on internet safety and transparency, regular reporting by companies to set a baseline on how to best reduce online abuse, and a new Internet Safety Strategy and comprehensive new social media code to be launched this year.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd agreed today on BBC Radio 4 that there has been, “in the past few years particularly, an escalation of abuse” against women who wish to enter politics. The government will focus on making sure that abuse that is illegal offline is illegal online too, she said.

“I don’t think we should accept that the pool in which we swim, if we want to be politicians, is so polluted by people’s activity and abuse,” Rudd said. “We need to call it out.”

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