Tomorrow and Friday the Online Hate Prevention Institute will be participating in Australia’s Regional Summit to Counter Violent Extremism. We can’t share details of the program, but this is a very high level meeting with senior people flying in from around the world. The conference follows a similar summit in Washington DC in February. OHPI thanks the Australian Government for the unique opportunity to contribute to there discussions about the safety and security of Australia and the region.
The Online Hate Prevention Institute is Australia’s only national charity dedicated to reducing the harm to individuals as a result of online hate content. While most of our public work is related to online racism and bigotry, we have also been quietly working with the Australian Federal Police, the Federal Attorney General’s Department, intelligence agencies, and state police across a wide range of incidents. These incidents include the targeting of individual Australians, extremists trying to incite race riots in Australia, incidents involving ISIS social media accounts either run from Australia or targeting Australia, and more. We’re proud of the role we play in keeping Australia and Australians safe.
Extremist propaganda can radicalize people, particularly young people. ISIS is very good at social media and their efforts at radicalizing Muslim youth through social media are well documented and have led to harmful results including the problem of foreign fighters from Australia. The far right is also getting better at social media, and there too we see people being recruited. We also see the far right trying to intimidate Australian businesses, incite the public, and manipulate groups, movements and people.
One public example of our work in this area was the response to the Martin Place hostage crisis in December. Far right extremists set up multiple pages on Facebook pretending these pages were run by Australian Muslims in support of ISIS and of the attack on the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place. OHPI responded within an hour of the pages starting to appear. We alerted our contacts at Facebook, the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police, and saw the content rapidly removed. Equally importantly, our exposure of this dangerous hoax, designed to cause a backlash against the Muslim community, went viral. Over a quarter of a million people saw the message and as a result the content received no traction.
In our work with Government, OHPI has also highlighted that social cohesion and a sense of belonging in Australian society reduces the effectiveness of messages of radicalization. On the other hand, bigoted content that attacks segments of society, people’s identity and their dignity, increases people’s vulnerable to messages of radicalization. By uniting against hate targeting any segment of the community, we can all help to protect our inclusive and multicultural society, but also make the job of those seeking to radicalize young Australians that much more difficult.
The Online Hate Prevention Institute is a unique organisation with the expertise and track record of making a real difference in efforts to counter the promotion of extremism through social media. Our FightAgainstHate.com reporting system, launched by The Hon Paul Fletcher MP last December, empowers the public and brings society together to take positive action against online hate, including racism, religious vilification, misogyny, bigotry, and the promotion of extremism. We look forward to participating in Australia’s Regional Summit to Counter Violent Extremism, and to working with Australian Government, State Governments and our supporters to improve the safety of Australia and the region.
OHPI is a charity on the Federal Government’s Register of Harm Prevention Charities. Founded in January 2012, we have rapidly grown to over 16,000 supporters on Facebook and produce regular public updates, briefings and reports as well as confidential reports for governments, industry, community bodies and other stakeholders. With cutting edge expertise from the technology, legal and media spheres, we research and tackle online problems to achieving systemic change.