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Saturday, 23 April 2011

Police launch operation to arrest 50 Old Firm online racists & bigots (UK)

More than 50 Old Firm internet hatemongers were last night facing arrest in a series of police raids.

A top cop warned: "We're coming to get you", as the operation to crush the bigots was launched.

A crack team will carry out the raids before tomorrow's Old Firm clash at Ibrox.

They were due to continue throughout today in Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire.

Their targets are self-styled supporters who have been spewing religious and racial hatred on social networking and chat forums.

Among them will be people who have posted vile abuse about Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers star El Hadji-Diouf.

The operation has been planned for nearly two months and involves officers from the Strathclyde Police Anti-Violence Directorate, which previously specialised in tracking down thugs setting up gang fights online.

Detectives have tracked their targets through internet accounts and website registrations.They will be arresting them for a variety of offences, ranging from breach of the peace to incitement to racially aggravated violence.

Action Superintendent Kirk Kinnell, who is heading the operation, said: "This is not a final warning. I want to reassure the public that we are taking action right now.

"We know who we are targeting. We have at least 50 live inquiries and we will be coming to the home addresses of people in the near future."

Supt Kinnell also revealed that the targets range from schoolboys to middle-aged men. As well as Facebook and Twitter, some of them have been promoting their sick views on football forums.

The superintendent added: "All of the inquiries are at different stages. It is a complex process but there is no hiding place on the internet.

"It is a broad-ranging inquiry and we are looking at comments about various individuals. This goes back to before the latest parcel bomb incidents.

"So some of them are sectarian comments about Neil Lennon and some are racist comments about El Hadji-Diouf, for example. But all are violent and hate-filled.

"These kind of comments have become particularly prolific over recent weeks and that has brought it into focus for us.

"It is at the point where they have become filled with hate and anger and are likely to incite violent behaviour so we are acting on these as quickly as we can.

"Everywhere we find people spreading the disease of hate online is where we will focus our activity."

Supt Kinnell said it was "routine business" for the anti-violence team to monitor social networking sites.

He said: "It is not difficult for us to track these people. We have cooperation from the Internet Service Providers Association and media companies which facilitate websites. They are helping us to identify those responsible.

"This operation will continue for as long as it needs to. We will be relentless in tracking these people down until they stop posting this kind of abuse on the internet.

"And if it stops in the coming weeks but flares up again next season, we will be right back on top of them again."

Daily Record