According to a recently released data by The Register, London witnessed a 37 percent increase in arrests made for online speech crimes in last five years, jumping from 625 in 2010, to 857 arrests in 2015 where offenders were targeted with Section 127 of the Communications Act of 2003, and a six-month prison term or fine of up to £5,000.
"Online crimes of speech” means using public electronic communications network in order to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety.
After more than 3,000 section 127 cases were heard in court in 2012, including a case where, James McConnell, the Northern Irish Pastor was charged with making "offensive” remarks about Islam during a sermon broadcast online in 2014, new guidelines were published by the then-Director of Public Prosecutions.
McConnell was subjected to an 18-month police investigation and criminal prosecution, eventually being found not guilty at the beginning of this year.
The new guidelines, however, resulted in a dramatic decline in a number of cases until 2013 after which it shot back up in 2015.
With a massive 857 section 127 arrests made last year – up almost 100 per cent on two years previously, the numbers are likely to keep on rising as this week the EU announced that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft had “committed” to working more closely with them and national governments and “their law enforcement agencies” to help “criminalize” perceived “illegal hate speech” online.
In a similar kind of report, Moscow-based Sova group, which studies human rights, nationalism, and xenophobia in Russia claims that 54 people were sent to prison for hate speech last year for sharing and posting things online. One of them, Andrei Bubeyev, was sentenced this month to more than two years in prison because of a picture of a toothpaste tube with the words, "Squeeze Russia out of yourself!" shared online.
"Andrei Bubeyev thinks that he was charged as an example so that other ordinary citizens would be discouraged from expressing their opinion," said his lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina.
The overall number of convictions for hate speech in Russia increased to 233 last year from 92 in 2010.