Hate crime directed at south and east Asian communities has increased by 21% during the coronavirus crisis, ministers have told MPs.
A session of the home affairs select committee on online harm since the onset of the pandemic also heard that incidents of revenge porn – the sharing of private sexual material of another person without their consent either online and offline – had increased.
Susan Williams, the Home Office minister for countering extremism, told the committee that extremism generally had not increased, but there had been a rise in specific types of hate crime.
She said: “I’ve been speaking to our hate crime lead, and there’s been a 21% uptick in hate incidents against the IC4 and IC5 community.”
Police use IC codes in radio communications and crime recording systems to describe the apparent ethnicity of a suspect or victim. IC4 relates to south Asia and IC5 to east Asia.
Police estimates suggest a threefold increase in such incidents in the first three months of 2020 compared with the same period last year.
Lady Williams’s answer jars with information provided by another Home Office minister, Kit Malthouse, in answer to a parliamentary question from the Liberal Democrats about the proportion of hate crime incidents against people of Chinese ethnicity. Malthouse did not provide a figure in his response, and said: “Information is not routinely collected on the ethnicity of victims.”
Caroline Dinenage, the digital and culture minister, told the committee there had been a rise in revenge porn.
“For adult users, we’ve seen a concerning increasing trend in things like revenge porn and sexploitation, calls to helplines along the lines of things like that,” she said.
The number of visits to the website of the Revenge Porn Helpline, the government-funded service for adults who have fallen victim to the crime, doubled in the week beginning 23 March.
The rise is thought to be driven by the increased use of the internet and social media during the lockdown.
Dinenage also said Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, had received 1,300 reports related to Covid-19, amounting to £2.8m.