19 June 2015
Thousands of people across Scotland are to be warned of the dangers of posting offensive material online through a new advertising campaign.
Nil by Mouth have launched a new hard-hitting ad campaign which warns of the legal ramifications of online bigotry. The posters will be sent next month to more than 100 public sector employers, youth projects, high schools, community centres and businesses across Scotland.
Posting sectarian or offensive content on the internet carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison in Scotland and in recent months there have been a number of high profile cases involving footballers and celebrities. The campaign message warns ‘It only takes seconds to post a sectarian message online….But you could get five years for it.’
Last month saw the publication of the final report of the Scottish Government’s Advisory Group on Sectarianism which highlighted the growing problem of online sectarianism. In recent months there have been a number of high profile incidents regarding sectarian behaviour at work – particularly with regard to misuse of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Last May a survey of 1,300 young adults, conducted by marketing agency Digital Clarity, found that 16% of the 18 to 25 year-olds surveyed admitted to spending over 15 hours a day online.
This is the latest stage of the charity’s campaign to raise awareness of the human and legal consequences of online abuse. Earlier this month the charity hosted the first national ‘Tackling Sectarianism at Work’ conference in Edinburgh which included a focus on this growing problem and highlighting areas of concern for employers. In March the charity also sponsored school performances of the play ‘Warrior’, which focuses on the impact of online sectarian abuse on teenagers.
Nil by Mouth Campaign Director Dave Scott said:
‘We first commissioned research into online sectarianism back in 2005 and sadly we are seeing even more people use the internet, and social media sites in particular, to spread hate and bigotry. This is not about freedom of speech it’s about people’s freedom to use the internet without being subjected to often unprovoked attacks and threatening behaviour.
We have been working with a number of offenders, victims and families over the past few years and what became clear very quickly is that people do not think there is any consequences for abusing people online. Individuals seem to feel they operate in a bubble and abusing people online is acceptable and somehow beyond the reach of the law.
For better or worse the internet is now a huge part of our lives and laws are quite rightly being put into place to ensure that people can be traced and prosecuted if they persist with this type of threatening behaviour. We want to use this campaign to hammer home to people the very real consequences of posting sectarian material online and hopefully it will encourage them to pause before they post.‘