Tuesday 27 December 2011

Hate Crimes?

I am used to abuse. I get lots of it. It's to be expected when you put your 'head above the parapet' and make a stand. Someone will always find a reason to hate you.

When does YouTube abuse cross the line? When does abuse become a hate crime?

Hate crime is undoubtedly an emotive subject, one that I am certainly no expert in. Personally I am a strong believer in the right to free speech. That's part of the reason why I leave a lot of the abusive posts on my videos, when many others remove them. I often find that the 'haters' hang themselves with their own words.

However, there is a line that, when crossed, takes abuse to another level. For me that was crossed recently with this comment.

I'm ramming the next biker off the road because of this vid and yes....I will reverse over them.

In some ways this comment is not as bad as some, I've had plenty saying they would run me over, etc. However, this isn't directed at me. It is directed at a random cyclist, the next he meets perhaps. Of course, he may well be kidding, and is likely to be an 'internet hard man', however, that was the excuse of some facebook posters in Dundee recently. In their defence one of their lawyers said,

He was certainly not serious about there being a 'riot in the toon'.

The facebook rioters were both sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Should I report this and similar comments as hate crimes?

Looking at the Strathclyde Police website hate crime is defined as a crime motivated by hatred of someone because of their race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality or national origins, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability. On the reporting form there are no other options, certainly no option for hate crime motivated by transport choice.

Ok, so maybe there is an option with YouTube. Again, they specify protected groups similar to above and make it difficult to report this as a serious offence. It can be reported as abuse, but their isn't an option for threats directed at a non-protected group.

So, whilst I completely agree that abuse against the listed 'protected groups' is unacceptable, why does it appear that hate against groups such as cyclists are not. Yes, I could try and force the issue with the police. I could try and force them to take me seriously, though I doubt they would. The problem is that I could probably report 3 or 4 people a day.

So is hate against cyclists on YouTube and elsewhere which incites violence against cyclists acceptable? Is it an unfortunate side effect of free speech? Or should we strive to make hate such as the example above punishable via the law?

What are your thoughts?


  1. I'd love to see an addition made to the hate crimes protected groups to include a social group as this could cover many things asides from ust cyclists - members of extreme political parties, other groups of road users or just about any other group you could think up really that some tit on the internet could take exception to and threaten violence towards.

    Interestingly in that article you posted both of them got convicted of "breach of peace" rather then inciting violence or hate crime, not sure if that same law would cover the threats on Youtube as I don't really see how it's much different - in each case someone has posted something online which threatens violence. Mind you their clearly not criminal masterminds as anyone who thinks posting an event suggesting starting riots, asking attendees to brings weapons and suggesting killing people will be taken as a joke is probably a few blades short of a meadow....good to see the judge saw past their "it was only a joke" excuse. Shame they can't do the same thing with SMIDSY...

  2. Free speech also allows the freedom to make stupid remarks as a reactionary gesture. Just as somebody does a close pass or something dangerous to me when I'm on my bicycle, my initial reaction is to tear the motorist's head off and place it on their bonnet. I'm angry and I'm mad but do I follow through with this? No.

    Taking any keyboard warriors suggestions seriously in an internet forum or comments section is sure to raise your own blood pressure. So for all the extreme reactions you may get about your videos from the haters, you're probably not hearing from the people who see your videos and think about the consequences of their driving. They are far less likely to comment but I'd like to think that seeing what cycle commuting entails will open their eyes just a little.

    Culture change is a long haul.

  3. I'm not sure I agree on your free speech slant. While I am a fervent believer in Freedom of Speech I take the line that "Your right to free speech does not oblige me to provide you a platform."

    If haters want to rant they may do so on their own web sites or youtube channels. While I would not remove comments that simply disagree with you, or criticise and point out failures I think you would be justified in removing trolls and flames.

    I think that removing posts is as much as you can do against haters, and trying to involve the Police will be flogging a dead horse.

  4. I wonder if there might be a way of mitigating the amount of ill informed nonsense that is spouted in your video comments. I have written a blog post called Dear Angry Motorist at w w w philward me uk/ ?p=106 that attempts to answer some of the issues that a lot of motorists have against cyclists. (Apologies, blogger won't let me post the link so you'll have to do it manually.)

    Perhaps if your description in each video contained something like this:

    "Before commenting regarding my non-payment of road tax, your annoyance at my non use of cycle lanes or your opinion that I was in the middle of the road please consider reading the following - link to page."

    Fee free to grab the text off my blog and use it to put your own together if you wish.

  5. Good article Thnurg, covers the points off very well. Unfortunately whilst posting a link to it in the description may help it really is like pi$$ing into the wind with some of the die-hard idiots these videos can attract. No amount of reasoned comments with them will get them to understand that as a cyclists you have the same rights (if not more....) as them to be on the road and in doing so have a basic expectation of safety whilst you are travelling.

    As far as they are concerned bikes are a relic of a bygone era and those who ride them are all sandal wearing, museli munching, red light jumping tree huggers.