Not only do police in the U.K. remove screwdrivers and scissors during a “weapons sweep,” they also ask their fellow citizens to report on “hate crimes,” like “offensive or insulting comments.”
In a tweet that genuinely has to be seen to be believed, the South Yorkshire police in Britain implored their followers to report “insulting comments” whether in word or in written form, as part of an anti-hate campaign.
“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,” the blue check marked tweet “reads. “Hate will not be tolerated in South Yorkshire. Report it and put a stop to it #HateHurtsSY“
Several other tweets that were shared with the department’s 166,000 followers illustrated the importance of reporting such crimes:
Needless to say, the department was roundly mocked by fellow Britons:
As sad as this behavior may be, in the U.K. such “police work” has become commonplace. Earlier this year, when Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a knife control plan to cut down crime in the gun-free zone of London, the Regents Park Police boasted of confiscating pliers, scissors, and screwdrivers during a “weapons sweep”:
During the Alfie Evans controversy, in which a terminally ill baby was pulled off life support by the British health system against his parents’ wishes, Merseyside police warned outraged citizens that social media posts were being “monitored” for offensive speech.
What is creepy about all of these statements is that the police do not adequately define the terms “malicious communications” or “offensive speech” or “weapons.” This failure ultimately stood at the heart of the recent controversy surrounding Scotland’s Youtube satirist Count Dankula, who was convicted of a “hate crime” for training his girlfriend’s adorable little pug to give Nazi salutes.
Fortunately, Count Dankula avoided jail time and was only fined £800 by a U.K. court for being “grossly offensive,” but that case set a dangerous precedent for regulating speech.