South Yorkshire Police have come under fire for asking people to report “non-crime hate incidents” such as “offensive or insulting comments”.
The police force tweeted on Monday encouraging people to report “hate incidents” and drew criticism from followers, one of whom branded the scheme “Orwellian dystopian censorship”.
“In addition to reporting hate crime, please report non-crime hate incidents, which can include things like offensive or insulting comments, online, in person or in writing. Hate will not be tolerated in South Yorkshire. Report it and put a stop to it #HateHurtsSY,” read the original tweet.
“Oh really? Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, learnt when we were about 4 years old,” replied one user.
The police account responded: “Hi Neil, while non-crime hate incidents may not be criminal offences, they can feel that way to those affected & can sometimes escalate to crimes taking place. We work with partners to try & prevent this. More info on our website.”
The website describes what constitutes a hate crime, saying it is “an incident or crime which is perceived to be motivated by prejudice or hostility against a person’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation [or] gender identity”.
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It adds: “The Police can only prosecute when the law is broken, but we also want to know about non-crime hate incidents.
“ These incidents may not be criminal offences but often can feel like a crime to those affected, and can sometimes escalate to crimes, therefore, we work with partners to try and prevent this from happening.”
“I guess this means you've solved all the real crimes and are now moving on to perceived crimes,” read another comment.
“Who decides what is offensive &/or insulting? I find this tweet offensive & insulting as it is a direct assault on everyone’s free speech...can I report that? Please run off & read some George Orwell, or the history of East Germany, & then have a re-think…” another user said.
talkRADIO has approached South Yorkshire Police for comment.