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Disabled people told to ‘drink bleach’ as levels of online hate crime soar | UK News

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Online hate crimes against disabled people soared by a third in one year – but the numbers recorded are just the “tip of the iceberg”, a charity has warned.

Police forces across England and Wales revealed there were 313 incidents reported in 2017-18 – up from 235 in the previous 12 months, according to the Leonard Cheshire organisation.

The disability charity said Kent recorded the most online hate crimes against disabled people (30), while Norfolk, Suffolk and Surrey saw the biggest increases in incidents.

Emily Davison, who is blind, runs a blog about living with a disability
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Emily Davison, who is partially sighted, said she had received abuse online

YouTuber Emily Davison, who runs a blog about living with a disability, said she had been told to “drink bleach” to cure her condition by an abuser online.

The 23-year-old from London has a rare congenital condition called septo-optic dysplasia that means she is blind in her right eye and has limited vision in her left.

She told Sky News: “I’ve had someone tell me to drink bleach to cure my disability, I’ve had people say that you’re not blind you’re just lying… just people telling me to do weird things to cure my disability.

“These kind of comments make me feel really apprehensive about going online… it also made me feel very targeted.

“I’ve been at the receiving end of bullying in the past so it made me feel like I was back in the playground as a child.”

Leonard Cheshire discovered the figures through freedom of information requests to police forces but said the number of recorded incidents “may just be the tip of the iceberg”.

It is now calling on social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to take online disability hate crime more seriously and protect users.

The charity’s chief executive Neil Heslop said: “Police are increasingly recording online offences, but we know it remains an under-reported area and that disabled people may have reservations about speaking out.

“We suspect many crimes remain under the radar, with survivors never getting support and perpetrators facing no consequences.

“These offences can have a devastating impact on the lives of survivors. We know from our work with disabled people that hate crime causes long-term fear, anxiety and, in some cases, isolation.”

A Facebook spokesman said: “We want everyone to have a safe experience on our platforms. Our community standards clearly state that we don’t tolerate content that discriminates against people based on a disability or health condition and we will take action against abusive content and the accounts that are responsible.”

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