Online users unaware of consequences of their hateful messages: Lead Public Prosecutor
People making online threats are often unaware, Lead Pubic Prosecutor Gerrit van der Burg said to NU.nl. The online has led to a polarised society, according to Van der Burg.
"It lacks decency and I say that not only as the boss of the Public Prosecution Service but also a citizen," Van der Burg said.
The lead public prosecutor said online trolls can drive fear in people's hearts with just a keyboard when they send messages such as "we know where your children live" and "you're going to die." "People are genuinely scared," Van der Burg said.
The number of threat cases increased last year by 771. There were 107 more threats reported against police officers between 2019 and 2020.
Due to the sheer number of cases, Van der Burg said it is impossible to prosecute every offense. "For every case, we go after, there is one we cannot take. That's how simple it is," the lead public prosecutor said.
Not all disrespectful online comments are considered a crime in the eyes of the law. Defamation only applies to cases where someone intentionally damages someone's honor or reputation. Threats are only punishable if the threat is clear and concrete. "Much can be said under the freedom of expression and this is completely justified. We are here to prosecute criminal offenses," Van der Burg said.
Several medical professionals and politicians had received threats from people who opposed the government's coronavirus measures and the Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
"What I call for is to respect each other again and to normalize relations. It's going from bad to worse," Van der Burg warned.