Online Reactions to Paris Attack Draw Concern

In an interview on SBS Urdu Radio, the Communications Officer of OHPI discusses the negative anti-Muslim reactions on social media to the Paris attacks.

You can listen to the interview here:

http://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/urdu/en/content/online-reactions-paris-attack-draw-concern

Or read the translation below:

Present with us today is the communications officer of the Online Hate Prevention Institute Chetna Prakash. The events in Paris and Beirut have been discussed in the news, but the world of social media presents the perspective of the people on the events in a different way. The Online Hate Prevention Institutes combats online hate, tracking in particular, the hateful messages are that promoted on social media.

Chetna, thank you for taking time out for us. Can you tell us that after these two attacks what has your Institute been seeing and observing?

First, thank you for having me here. The first thing I would like to emphasise is that what has taken place in Paris is tragic, and it is imperative that the people who planned and coordinated these attacks are caught and punished harshly. However, we should take care that ordinary Muslims are not blamed for the acts of the terrorists, just because they share a religion, nationality or ethnicity with them. They have a right to go about their ordinary lives without fear.

We should be mindful of the fact that Muslims have been the biggest targets of such terrorism, and many are fleeing the Middle East to escape the terrorists.

Post-Paris events we have definitely noticed a spike in anti-Muslim hate on social media. We have read many messages which are concerning. Such messages are arising from both Australian and non-Australian pages. I’d like to share some examples of the kind of messages that are being shared.

The most common examples are of people blaming Islam, the religion, and all Muslims for the terrorist attacks in Paris.

We have also come across pages that are discussing banning Islam from Australia and disenfranchising all Muslims.

There are discussions of not allowing more Muslim refugees into the country.

But the most interesting observation we have made is the coinage of a new term on social media “terrorgee” which has been made by joining “terrorist” and “refugee”. It is being used to promote fear and hatred against refugees. We have noticed this term being used only after this incident.

We have also seen people use unverified statistics which claim that majority of Muslims support extremist violence.

We need to be aware that such content is being promoted on social media. If we come across it, we should not share or like it.

Chetna, these are interesting observations that you have shared with us. It is important that a new term has been coined. We have seen how many new terms take birth on social media, and soon slip into mainstream media. So how important is it that such terms are stopped from going viral, and if so, how can we do it?

It is critical that we stop such terms from going viral. Because often such terms that start on social media, soon enter our real lives and discussions. Like you mentioned, mainstream media adopts them as well. This has a negative impact on society, in how people view other communities in their midst. Hence, removal of such terms from social media is important.

The first thing we should remember is that most social media platforms have rules of engagement, and these rules specify that hate speech is against their community standards and should be reported to the platform. Hence, if come across such content on social media, we should report them to the platform seeking their removal.

So if you encounter anti-Muslim hate on social media, the first step to take is to report it to the social media platform such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter.

However, often, despite reporting the platforms do not remove such content. Which is why our organisation the Online Hate Prevention Institute has built a new tool called the FightAgainstHate.com, which is an independent hate reporting tool. Anyone can use it. Hence, if you report any content that the platform does not remove, you should report it to our tool. We track the hate content, monitor how long it takes for the platform to remove it, and if it does not remove it we share it with the right authority, such as the police, or government agencies, NGOs or university bodies studying hate speech. Hence, we can bring such examples into the public domain and we can debate whether it is right or wrong, and whether we should allow it or not.

Finally, you mentioned the Police and the government. However, is there any government legislation that social media users should be aware of before uploading content?

In Victoria, we have laws against religious vilification. While it is not a criminal offence, people can be taken to court for vilifying someone for the religion that they practice.  The police often gets involved in cases where people are using social media to incite violence against the Muslim community.

In fact, our organise is currently running a campaign called the Spotlight on Anti-Muslim Internet Hate (SAMIH) where we are encouraging people to report anti-Muslim hate on social media to our hate reporting tool. Our campaign is being supported by the Australian Federal Police, which shows that they do view this kind of hate speech as a problem for our social cohesion.

Please share to help us spread this message. If you aren’t yet following the Online Hate Prevention Institute on Facebook, please join us.

NOTES

The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) is Australia’s National Charity dedicated to tackling the problem of online hate including online extremism, cyber-racism, cyber-bullying, online religious vilification, online misogyny, and other forms of online hate attacking individuals and groups in society. We aim to be a world leader in combating online hate and a critical partner who works with key stakeholders to improve the prevention and mitigation of online hate and the harm it causes. Ultimately, OHPI seeks to facilitate a change in online culture so that hate in all its forms becomes as socially unacceptable online as it is in “real life”.