Online hate crime must be treated as seriously as “offline” offences, under revamped prosecution rules.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has issued revised guidelines in response to the mounting problem of abuse on social media.
Last month, MPs from across the political divide revealed the scale of the vitriol they received on a daily basis, including online rape and death threats.
Spikes in hate crimes were recorded in the wake of the 2016 EU referendum and around the terror attacks earlier this year.
The updated CPS documents state: “Hate crime can be perpetrated online or offline, or there can be a pattern of behaviour that includes both.
“The internet and social media in particular have provided new platforms for offending behaviour.”
The CPS said it will prosecute complaints of hate crime online “with the same robust and proactive approach used with offline offending, whilst recognising that children may not appreciate the potential harm and seriousness of their communications” and “treat online complaints as seriously as offline complaints”.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “Hate crime has a corrosive effect on our society and that is why it is a priority area for the CPS.
“It can affect entire communities, forcing people to change their way of life and live in fear.
“These documents take account of the current breadth and context of offending to provide prosecutors with the best possible chance of achieving justice for victims.
“They also let victims and witnesses know what they should expect from us.”