The Garda have warned people who set up pages inciting racism on online social networks that they are open to prosecution, and even people who join these sites could face charges.
Sgt David McInerney of the Garda Racial and Intercultural Office said site hosts like Facebook were also “open to prosecution” if there was a valid complaint about racist online material.
“It is only a matter of time before a prosecution is brought,” he said.
Two anti-Traveller pages were recently pulled by Facebook following complaints from members of the public.
One of the sites had more than 8,000 members before it was closed down, while another site still in operation which promotes abuse against Travellers has more than 300 members.
The Irish Traveller Movement described the sites as “particularly vile” and “grossly offensive”, while Pavee Point and the Waterford Travellers Community Development Project have lodged formal complaints with the Garda.
Sgt McInerney encouraged people with complaints to continue to come forward. He described racist online activity as:
“very harmful” and “a very very serious form of crime. People don’t realise the harm it causes. Such sites can lead directly to racial abuse against minorities in the streets.”
Also condemning the sites, Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey said: “Social networking sites have a responsibility to ensure that the platforms they provide aren’t being abused.
“There is a constant need for vigilance in relation to racism. Racism should be confronted however and wherever it manifests itself.”
The Minister’s reconfigured department now has responsibility for the Government’s equality remit, formerly with the Department of Justice.