Hate crime are those in which the defendant selects a victim, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person. It is a crime to threaten another individual or group of individuals or cause damage to property belonging to another individual.

The First Amendment protects our right to freedom of speech, and although hateful dialogue can be hurtful and offensive, it usually is not a crime. Websites that express blanket statements of hatred of certain ethnic groups, present racial comments, or that attack religious affiliations or sexual orientation - even if they target individual people and cause emotional pain - are still protected by the First Amendment.

When speech becomes a direct, credible threat, however, it is no longer protected by the First Amendment.

The Internet has introduced new and efficient ways for people to communicate their thoughts and feelings about people, organizations and institutions. It has also offered a new medium for hate speech. The virtual anonymity of the Internet allows extremists to mask their identity behind anonymous screen names, encrypted addresses and websites that can be updated, deleted and relocated in seconds.

For more information, view the Hate Crimes page of this website. If you believe that your civil rights have been violated, you may file a Civil Rights Complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the AGO.