Online issues and worries: online hate
Online hate is posting and sharing hateful content that targets a particular individual, group or community.
What is online hate?
Online hate is different to online bullying. It is posting and sharing hateful content that targets a particular individual, group or community or uses something about their identity or background to criticise, abuse or belittle them. This could be because of their race, religion, transgender identity, sexual orientation or because they are disabled. If a post is negatively targeting one of these things, it could be viewed as online hate. The law in the UK protects people from being targeted because of their identity.
Online hate can include:
When does online hate become a crime?
Not all hateful posts are hate crimes. Under UK law, people have a right to freedom of expression. They can say and write offensive things without breaking the law. But people also have a right to live free from hate, so if a post is hateful but not a criminal offence, it can be recorded by the police as a 'hate incident'. A lot of hate incidents can add up to become a criminal offence. A person that posts hate could be arrested, prosecuted, and end up with a criminal record or in prison.
Online hate can include:
- hate speech
- sending someone messages to deliberately cause distress or anxiety (malicious communications)
- encouraging someone to be violent
- encouraging others to hate a person or particular group of people
How to keep yourself safe
There are things you can do to combat online hate.
If anyone posts hateful things about you, report it to the platform, game, app or website where it happened. You can also report hateful things that you see, it doesn’t have to be directed at you.
If someone posts hateful content or sends you things that you find upsetting, you can block and unfollow them. Talking to them about their hate comments may not always be safe. If you recognise the person as belonging to your school, local group or community, you can also tell someone you trust at school, in your local group or a police officer.
What if it's already happened?
Online hate is upsetting, and it's normal if it makes you feel angry, upset or unsafe. Get help and support by talking to someone. Speak to a trusted adult like a parent/carer or teacher. If you're not sure how to start a conversation with someone, here are some tips. If you feel like you can't talk to anyone, you can speak to an anonymous helpline like Meic.
Keep a record
Keep screenshots or copies of hateful posts, comments or messages aimed at you. If you decide to report the hateful behaviour, these can be used as evidence.
Report it to the police
If you are being threatened or a crime has already been committed, speak to the police on 101. If you feel that you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 999.
Report it to Victim Support
Victim Support offer free confidential support to help you cope and recover from the impact of hate crime. There is someone you can speak to 24/7 who will listen and understand. You can report a hate crime to them by calling 03003031982, or using live chat. Victim Support can also report hate crime to the police on your behalf.
How to challenge online hate
Social media algorithms work by calculating popular content. If lots of people comment on a post, the algorithm identifies it as really popular content and makes it more visible to others in their feeds and in suggestions of things you might like to see – even if all of those people commenting on the post are saying how bad and hateful it is! Also, challenging hateful messages yourself may not always be safe, so it may be best not to comment.
It’s important to report hate so that it can be taken down and to let people like the police know that it’s happening. You can also help to outweigh hateful content by putting up posts on your own social media that are the opposite, for example posts that celebrate difference. Lots of celebrities are already doing this. If you can’t think of things to post then you can look for accounts that are already sharing positive content and share their posts.
If the person posting hate is a friend, and you feel it’s safe to talk to them, you might want to point out that their posts are hateful or discriminatory. They might not even realise it. You could even point them to this page for information.
Where to go for help
If you’re looking for help or information, but you’re worried about starting a conversation with an adult, here are some tips.
- Police – report hate crimes to the police on 101. If you or anyone else is in immediate danger, call 999
- Victim Support – free, confidential support to help you cope and recover from the impact of hate crime. You can also report a hate crime through their website
- Hate Hurts Wales – anti-hate campaign from the Welsh Government
- CrimeStoppers – report a crime anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on their website
- Get Safe Online – information to keep safe online. Check out their Hate Content page
- Report Harmful Content – how to report online abuse across different social media platforms
- Meic – free and confidential helpline for children and young people in Wales with advisers to help you find the support you need. Call 080880 23456, text 84001 or chat online
Tackling online misogyny film
Check out this film from the Football Association of Wales, which was created in response to the online abuse aimed at female footballers witnessed across social media during the 20/21 season.