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New criminal legislation to “crack down” on online hate crime and financial fraud

New criminal legislation will protect internet users from hate crime and financial fraud, it has been announced.

The new laws form part of the draft Online Safety Bill, which is intended to tackle rising levels of crime online.

According to the latest statistics, almost three-quarters of UK adults are “concerned about going online”, while fewer parents feel the benefits outweigh the risks of their children being online – falling from 65 per cent in 2015 to 55 per cent in 2019.

The new legislation will target both the perpetrators of online abuse and financial fraud, as well as the businesses that enable such activities.

The measures include:

  • Reserved powers for Ofcom to pursue criminal action against named senior managers whose companies do not comply with Ofcom’s requests for information.
  • Further provisions to tackle prolific online scams such as romance fraud, which involves manipulating people online and on dating apps into sending money.
  • Requiring social media platforms to remove and limit the spread of illegal and harmful content.
  • The power to fine companies failing in a new duty of care up to £18 million or ten per cent of annual global turnover, whichever is higher, and have the power to block access to sites.

Commenting on the new laws, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We will protect children on the internet, crack down on racist abuse on social media and through new measures to safeguard our liberties, create a truly democratic digital age.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel added: “Ruthless criminals who defraud millions of people and sick individuals who exploit the most vulnerable in our society cannot be allowed to operate unimpeded, and we are unapologetic in going after them.”

Under current legislation, hate material online is recorded by police as a ‘hate crime’ when a crime defined in law is committed with hate motivation.

When online material is hate-motivated but does not meet the threshold for a criminal offence, it is recorded as a ‘hate incident’.

Have you been accused of committing a crime? We help clients through all stages of the criminal justice process. For advice and representation, get in touch with our expert team today.

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