The page “Left Wing Bigots and Extremists exposed” (460474917459804) says its purpose is to “expose the violent left wing bigots and people that support them”. The page is used to coordinate raids on anti-racism Facebook pages and groups as well as on government endorsed charities working in this space. An hour ago the Online Hate Prevention Institute became their latest target.
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Needless to say there are numerous errors in their little statement. Beyond the use of the word ran instead of run… an error so bad it hurts. Firstly, it’s the Online Hate Prevention Institute, not the Online Hate Prevention Group. At least that’s what all the Government issued paperwork says at our end. Secondly, the reason we have all this government paperwork is because the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) is a government endorsed harm prevention charity not just a Facebook page. Thirdly, as a charity we are non-political. We are not affiliated with, run by or funded by any political party. That includes the Greens.
They also get our purpose wrong. Our purpose is not to shutdown pages that “speak the truth about Islam” or even to shutdown pages that are spreading lies about Islam. Frankly, we are a human rights organisation that is only interested in online hate directed against people. If Facebook pages want to argue about religious beliefs, political beliefs, etc by all means have fun.
As a harm prevention charity, our focus is on online content which promotes hate against individuals or sections of the community. We cover a wide variety of hate. Some of the things we deal with include: online racism (including a focus on racism against Indigenous Australians), antisemitism (including a focus on Holocaust denial), religious vilification (including a focus on anti-Muslim hate), misogyny, homophobia, and hate against military veterans. We also look at the use of social media to promote violent extremism, online griefing and serious trolling.
We have written at length about the difference between criticizing an idea, including a religion, and attacking people who hold that idea or belong to that religion. Our latest work on this topic was publish by the Kantor Center at Tel-Aviv University and be seen online here. The conclusion is that there is no conflict between freedom of religion and freedom of speech if the freedom of speech is limited to discussion and disagreements of the ideas of religion, but is restrained from impacting on people’s ability to practice their religion. Creating a hostile environment for people of a certain religion, or inciting fear of them, promoting negative stereotypes about them, or vilifying them is not free speech but hate speech. It is prohibited by Facebook’s community standards and in many places is prohibited by law.
The page may claim they are going after extremists but as their targeting of OHPI shows, they are really just going after anyone that disagrees with them. They are also quite prepared to make things up (like claiming OHPI is “Ran by the Greens”) in order to mislead people into taking action. This willingness to mislead people makes them doubly dangerous.
Of course they were inspired to this by Michael Thomas Holt the CEO of Restore Australia. Michael himself admits their page promotes hate, he just doesn’t accept that some of what they post is attacking Muslims not just the religious ideas of Islam. You can see our most recent briefing on Restore Australia to see what you think. I wonder if Michael got the irony of starting a post “DEFEND FREEDOM OF SPEECH” in which he then goes on to encourage people to issue false reports against a charity?
This is what he posted on the Restore Australia page, having a go not only at OHPI but also at Jimmy Barnes! And of course promoting the hate page we discussed at the start of this briefing. So that brings us full circle.
Speaking of full circle, to take it to a whole new level, here is the original page now posting a link to this briefing while either ignoring everything we said, or simply not reading it. Note their reference again to this being just a page and their threats of “investigating” to find out who is behind it. Two difference between us and them. (1) we do know who is behind this page, but we don’t general go in for exposing the bigots, which is why we haven’t published it (note that after taking legal advice, we do sometimes make an exception, particular when people target OHPI). (2) It doesn’t take much “investigation” to find out who is behind the OHPI page. The Online Hate Prevention Institute (ABN: 65 155 287 657) owns the page. If you want to know who is behind the Online Hate Prevention Institute… it’s all there on our website. We publish not only the list of directors but also our list of international advisers. As a charity, we believe in transparency. As a person trying to run a hate page anonymously the person behind this page doesn’t seem to get that.
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If you aren’t already a supporter of OHPI, please do join our Facebook page. It would be nice to see this little stunt backfire on them. You can also stay informed on our work by joining our mailing list for a monthly update.