A British professor made the case last week that anyone in the U.K. convicted of a hate crime should be placed on a “hate crime offenders register” so as to be prevented from working in certain professions.
“Given increasing concerns about hate crimes, there may be scope for Parliament to consider establishing a hate crime offenders register along the lines of the sex offenders register,” Durham University law professor Thom Brooks argued in “evidence” submitted to the U.K. Parliament.
“Anyone on a hate crime offenders register could be restricted from working with children and/or working in certain professions,” he added. “This seems sensible, mirrors current policies in place and would help send a clearer signal of how serious these offenses are.”
Here’s the problem: When reasonable people think of hate crimes, they likely picture ill-tempered bigots pounding their fists into minorities. Brooks and those like him, on the other hand, seemingly imagined something else altogether.
“Social media companies now regularly have procedures their users can follow where it is alleged a hate crime may have taken place,” he added in his evidence to Parliament, before launching into a diatribe about how these policies need to be enhanced.
But what in the world do social media have to do with hate crimes? A lot, unfortunately. Last August, for instance, a man from Manchester was sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid work and a year of “community order” (basically probation) for merely writing something on Facebook that offended Muslims, as reported at the time by the Manchester Evening News.
One Muslim “witness” reportedly told police that she was concerned that his comments (which did not threaten violence) would somehow “incite hatred,” and apparently the authorities bought it.
This means that merely posting comments or updates to Facebook that might offend Muslims or any other minorities now counts as a “hate crime” in the U.K., and that’s a problem.
Real bigots are the scourge of society, and targeting them for ostracism could perhaps be a legitimate form of deterrence. But until the British learn to differentiate between someone committing an actual hate crime and someone simply engaging in free speech, no matter how offensive, they need to cool their jets.
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