We draw a distinction between what is considered “Criminal Offences” and what is simply “Offensive Material” on the Internet.
Criminal Offences on the Internet
If a criminal offence occurs on the internet where a person, group or property is threatened or harassed and the motivating factor is based on hatred or prejudice towards an identifiable group, this should be reported to police. In some cases bullying can be a hate crime if the motive behind the act is based on hatred of the person’s identity.
Examples: Twitter posts threatening to damage religious property, Facebook messages threatening to kill someone because of their race.
When hatred is published through images, print and other media it is considered Hate Propaganda, which is illegal in Canada. Online content is Hate Propaganda when it incites hatred towards an identifiable group. Hate propaganda involves advocating genocide, public incitement of hatred and the wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group.
Examples: Hate Propaganda can take many forms, including words, pictures, videos, and music, and can include content on webpages, books, videos or descriptions that promote or glorify violence against identifiable groups.
What you can do about online hate material?
Offensive Material on the Internet
Discriminatory acts such as racist, transphobic, or sexist remarks are not necessarily criminal offences, but they can be punished by human rights and civil rights protection legislation, harassment policies. This can include but is not limited to: negative comments on FaceBook, YouTube or Twitter, racial or homophobic language through chat or online gaming and offensive comments on news articles.
What can you do about offensive material?
Option One – Report it to the website administrator
Most websites have rules known as ‘acceptable use policies’ that set out what cannot be put on their website and often do not allow comments, videos and photos that offend or hurt people.
Web and social media sites such as Facebook have simple ways for you to report about a page or video.
Others may have a ‘report this page’ button that you can click.
Option Two – Report it to the hosting company
Hosting companies own the digital space that is rented by website owners to have a presence on the Internet. Hosting companies often have their own set of rules about content. You can find out which company hosts a website by entering their web address on the ‘Who is hosting this?’
If the website itself is hateful or supports violence then let the website’s hosting company know. Let the hosting company know they are hosting a website that breaks their rules, and ask them to stop.
You can also contact your own internet supplier to get more information.