We’ve heard this one before: the push to put in place measures identifying and sanctioning acts that are not (f)actually illegal, but will effectively be treated as such, in order to reduce the supposedly dangerous levels of “internet harassment,” etc.
Some variation of the phrase – “acts of hate that may not violate the law but still cause significant harm in a community” – has appeared in new legislation, rules and initiatives across the world – in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Europe.
And now the trend has caught on in California.
The governor of this US state, Gavin Newsom, has announced a new multi-language program dubbed “CA vs Hate” which will feature a site and a hotline that will allow people to report what they perceive as acts of hate.
But – why just not report such a thing to the police? Perhaps because laws already in place to deal with this kind of acts appear not be enough here – because, what will be treated as “acts of hate” – may in fact not be illegal.
A press release from Newsom’s office said the program was being launched in response to rising hate crimes affecting Asian and Pacific communities, and that reporting will be optionally anonymous and safe, open to both people who believe they are victims, or witnesses to such “acts.”
Cynics will say – just a politician in search of job security.
That said, it isn’t entirely clear who, and in what way will deal with these reports. The press release mentions that the hotline and the site are in fact a non-emergency resource – and will be “complemented by a multilingual outreach campaign, emphasizing community engagement.”
It also makes note at the very end that people facing (actually legally prohibited?) hate crime should, actually – just call the police.
Critics say that the problem with the trend of emphasizing “hate epidemics” around the world and choosing to deal with them in this particular way provides a useful vector to governments and elites behind them to usher in even more censorship, mass surveillance, and blacklisting.
After Newsom’s announcement, author Michael Shellenberger broke down the numbers related to the rise of hate crime and convictions based on reports of hate crime, concluding that while criminal complaints of hate crimes rose, percentage-wise over the years, the rate of convictions has been low.
“There were just 285 hate crime complaints in California, a state with 39 million people, in 2021,” he writes.
So perhaps initiatives such as the governor’s are seeking alternative ways of promoting a political agenda – particularly among the non-English speaking minorities.
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