Hate crimes committed on social media must be taken as seriously as 'offline' offences, new guidelines for prosecutors say.
Crown Prosecution Service policy statements have been updated to take account of the mounting number of cases sparked by abuse in cyber space.
The revised documents cover different strands of hate crime including racist, religious, disability and homophobic.
They state: " Hate crime can be perpetrated online or offline, or there can be a pattern of behaviour that includes both.
"The internet and social media in particular have provided new platforms for offending behaviour."
The CPS says it will prosecute complaints of hate crime online 'with the same robust and proactive approach used with offline offending, whilst recognising that children may not appreciate the potential harm and seriousness of their communications' and 'treat online complaints as seriously as offline complaints'.
Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: "Hate crime has a corrosive effect on our society and that is why it is a priority area for the CPS.
"It can affect entire communities, forcing people to change their way of life and live in fear.
"These documents take account of the current breadth and context of offending to provide prosecutors with the best possible chance of achieving justice for victims.
"They also let victims and witnesses know what they should expect from us."