WASHINGTON, D.C. – Alarmed by the rapid rise in hate crimes and the lack of comprehensive reporting about it, Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today requested a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the rise of online hate crimes and hate speech in the United States. The request follows the release of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) online hate and harassment report, which found more than 1 in 3 Americans experienced online hate and harassment this year. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) annual hate crimes report, which just revealed the highest level of hate crimes in a decade, does not capture online hate crimes at all and is a radically incomplete assessment of hate in America.

The Members wrote: “… The hate crimes reporting program is voluntary, and the vast majority of law enforcement agencies in the country either report that no hate crimes occurred in their jurisdictions or they decline to participate in the program. The numbers we see only scratch the surface and do not accurately tell the story of hate in America.  Failure to have the full picture constrains us as policymakers from devising comprehensive solutions to fight hate and protect members of our communities from falling victim to hate crimes. We must do more to compel law enforcement agencies to investigate and report hate crimes as a matter of national security and in order to allow our country to thrive as a global leader.”

The Members continued: “… Therefore, where online hate crimes are absent from the FBI annual hate crime reporting, and such crimes arguably will continue to rise as our digital footprint expands, we respectfully seek a study to address:

  • The rise of online hate crimes and hate speech from 2012 to the present, and how is it directed at protected groups;
  • The relationship between hate online and hate crimes perpetrated physically on the ground; and,
  • The relationship between online hate crimes and hate speech, and the rise of anti-government militias and domestic terrorism.”

"The total severity of the impact and damage caused by hate crimes cannot be fully measured without complete participation in the FBI’s data collection process,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “At the ADL, we have consistently called for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to improve data collection and reporting of hate crimes. In addition to improving current reporting, we must find better ways to document hate crimes committed on the 21st century frontier of hate: the internet. ADL data shows rising levels of identity-based online hate and harassment. It’s essential to understand how this correlates to bias crimes perpetrated both online and on the ground. We are tremendously grateful to Rep. Raskin and Sen. Blumenthal for their leadership pressing for a governmental study on the rise of online hate crimes and speech in the United States.”

Full text of the letter is available here.