The Countryside Alliance have reported an abusive Facebook page, “Ban Hunting with Dogs” to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee for allowing abusive and threatening posts to be repeatedly published on the page.
Last week the Alliance spoke out against vile comments that were posted on the page relating to the death of well-known show jumper, Sue Webb: Countryside Alliance condemns vile social media abuse . Since then, further comments have been published on the page relating to a blessing of the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray Hunt by a Surrey Vicar. The comments were posted last Friday and have not been taken down. The comments go beyond simply being abusive to being extremely threatening, with one simply saying, “Kill him”. Following a complaint by the Alliance this particular comment was removed but only after 48 hours, but all the others remain.
The Alliance have submitted evidence to the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Yvette Cooper MP, as part of her Committee’s inquiry into “Hate crime and its violent consequences”. Last week Ms Cooper blasted social media executives for “having a terrible reputation among their users for failing to act on reports of hate speech and other offensive material.”
Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Yvette Cooper said:
“We understand the challenges that you face and technology changes very fast, but you all have millions of users in the United Kingdom and you make billions of pounds from these users, (but) you all have a terrible reputation among users for dealing swiftly with content even against your own community standards.”
In his letter to Ms Cooper, Chief Executive of the Alliance, Tim Bonner said:
“We would like to bring to your attention, and ask your Committee to consider, the impact malicious communications can have on its victims and communities.
“Those involved in lawful hunting, as regulated by the Hunting Act 2004, are often subjected to malicious communications online. Abusive and threatening comments are repeatedly posted on the the Facebook page; “Ban Hunting with Dogs”.”
The Alliance have also written to the London Facebook Headquarters requesting that the “Ban Hunting with Dogs” Facebook page be closed due to repeated offences that breach new social media guidelines published by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last autumn: Guidelines on prosecuting cases involving communications sent via social media , Countryside Alliance welcomes new social media guidelines aimed at tackling online abuse . The Alliance argue that the comments made in relation to the late Sue Webb breach Category 4 of the guidelines, “Communications which are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false” and that the comments made in relation to a Surrey vicar breached Category 1 of the guidelines, relating to “credible threats”.
A spokesman for the Alliance, Tom Hunt said:
“We welcome the strong line that the Home Affairs Select Committee have taken on this issue. It is vital that the social media giants in question step up to the mark and ensure that they robustly tackle the chilling comments that are so often posted on their sites.
“Last autumn the Director of Public Prosecutions published clear guidelines in relation to malicious content on social media. It is vital that the CPS and Facebook ensure that these guidelines are followed.
“With the growth of social media, over the past few years there have been many occasions where hunt members and supporters have been subject to outrageous abuse. Recently, the “Ban Hunting with Dogs” page has been a significant offender, failing to moderate the outrageous comments that have been published on its page. The comments published in relation to the late Sue Webb were sickening and no doubt grossly offensive to all who knew and loved her. The comments published in relation to a Surrey Vicar include threats to his safety and well-being. This cannot be allowed to continue. There is a strong case to be made for the page to be closed down as a result.”