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To mark the International Human Rights Day today, the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI), Australia’s national charity dedicated to combating all forms of online hate, has released an interim report into anti-Muslim hate in social media. The report is evidence based and draws on a sample of over 1100 items reported by the public between September 24 2015 and November 24, 2015.

The report is particularly timely with anti-Muslim hate accelerating sharply in 2015 as a result of misplaced fear of ordinary Muslims in response to the actions of specific terrorist groups claiming to act in the name of Islam. The Syrian refugee crisis and the fears of lone-wolf terrorists groomed by Daesh (ISIS) has vitiated the political debate around the world and have given far right groups a cause to rally around. Much of the hate and fear is being spread through social media, and particularly through Facebook.

This interim report provides preliminary data from OHPI’s forthcoming “Spotlight on Anti-Muslim Internet Hate Report” due to be released in March 2016. By releasing this interim report today on the International Human Rights Day, we want to draw attention to this growing problem which threatens the inclusivity of our society and the human dignity of people in our community.

The messages of online anti-Muslim hate behind this report have been categorized into themes. The interim report gives a breakdown of how many items were reported per category, and shares an example from each category by way of example. The report goes also shows how many of the items reported to Facebook have been removed.

The rising anti-Muslim hate is so bad that today Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, felt compelled to add his support to Muslim users of Facebook.  “If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you,” he said. We hope he holds firm on his words because more the 90 per cent of the hate reported into our system was from Facebook.

OHPI’s CEO responded to Mark Zuckerberg’s post saying “There is clearly a long way to go between the sort of environment Mark Zuckerberg says he wants Facebook to be, and the reality we see online today. Part of the problem is the abuse of Facebook by those spreading hate, but the failure of Facebook to properly respond to users reports is also part of the problem. When people feel unwelcome, excluded, and vilified, when they feel their dignity as a person is under attack, a reply from Facebook that they abusive content they reported does not violate Facebook’s community standards is just rubbing salt into an open wound. Our data shows Facebook needs to improve the way it responds to reports of anti-Muslim hate, indeed to reports of all kinds of hate. We hope Facebook will work with us so we can help them make this happen. Grand words are welcome, but the proof is in the hard data, and right now Facebook is coming up short.”  

The Interim Report can be accessed at: http://ohpi.org.au/anti-muslim-hate-interim-report/

Please help us share this press release with button below. If you know a journalist who may be interested, please let them know. Dr Andre Oboler, OHPI’s CEO is in San Francisco until noon tomorrow (local time) and happy to give interviews, he can be contacted via e-mail. Our Communications Manager, Chetna Prakash, can be contacted at the OHPI Office on +61 3 9272 5594 during business hours in Melbourne, Australia.