Annual Report 2019 – Background & Development Strategy

This article is an extract based on OHPI’s Annual Report for the 2019 Financial Year. Return to the Report.

Background & Development Strategy

The Online Hate Prevention Institute is Australia’s only Harm Prevention Charity dedicated to tackling hate in the online environment. We have been working in this space since our establishment in 2012, yet prior efforts date back to 2004 when our Managing Director raised concerns about antisemitism in search results, 2008 when he first raised concerns about the dangers of social media in spreading incitement and hate, and 2009 when a project tackling antisemitism online was created. The creation of the Online Hate Prevention Institute took that 2009 project, expanded it to cover all forms of online hate and extremism and established it as an independent charity.

For our first four years we operated with a team of specialist staff supported through seed funding from our initial private donors. It was during this time that the impact of our efforts was at its highest point. Despite a significant impact in Australia and internationally fund raising was difficult. Seeing the urgent need of our work, the Board chose to drastically reduce operating costs rather than close when our seed funding ended. This led to a loss of expertise and capacity. Through the voluntary efforts of our managing director and assistance from the board and volunteers we have continued to be an effective force tackling online hate and extremism, though at a reduced level of activity while operating on a minimum-viability budget.

For the term of this Annual Report our Managing Director has been employed in an academic capacity in the La Trobe University Law School. As such he was able to spend some of his work time on OHPI related activities as part of the La Trobe University’s support for community engagement. In addition, there has been a synergy which has allowed him to represent both OHPI and La Trobe University at a number of conferences and events as well as in a significant number of media appearances. The University has contributed to the costs associated with many of these engagements. This has resulted in increased exposure for the university and a higher level of activity by OHPI without significant additional costs. We thank La Trobe University for these opportunities and the contribution it has made to our work and the safety of the community.

The support of a small number of regular donors has ensured our work can continue. We thank them for making this possible. We also thank our auditors, accountants and lawyers for their pro-bono contributions to our work. We also thank students at both Monash University and La Trobe University whose projects for us have advanced our work. We also thank the Department of Foreign Affair and Trade (DFAT) for grants that have enable attendance to represent Australia at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and for a grant which supported a project relating to our Fight Against Hate Software and collaboration with partners in Italy and Luxembourg. The DFAT grants are managed through La Trobe University and are therefore not reflected in these accounts.

In the quest to combat online hate, our proprietary software continues to be one of OHPI’s greatest assets. The monitoring software of Fight Against Hate and its related CSI-CHAT analysis tool are at the forefront of much of our work to reduce online hate and increase community resilience. This year saw the software configured for the first time for use in foreign languages.

OHPI has a well-documented track record in dealing with online hate and countering online extremism. Our reports have contributed significantly to understanding the problem. There has also been a marked increase in the number of media requests for comments, statements & interviews with our Managing Director over a range of issues related to online hate & extremism. The media recognise us as specialists in the field with the ability to explain sometimes complex issues to the public and to comment on emerging situations.

The Christchurch Call – following terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand – stressed an urgent need for action and enhanced cooperation in order to eliminate terrorism and violent extremist content online. A number of national governments, including the Australian Government, have signed up to the Christchurch Call. This provides OHPI with the opportunity to play a crucial role. We have a specific mandate to fight online hate and are dedicated to partnerships with government & online service providers in finding solutions to this threat.

With increasing awareness & concern at the rise of extremism fuelled through the internet, many are now seeking urgent answers. The work of the Online Hate Prevention Institute is needed now more than ever. To meet this growing demand for our work we seek to return to the level of activities & engagement we demonstrated while still fully funded. This would require a financial commitment to staffing and additional operating costs. Such costs would need to be funded through support from government, increased donations, new grants and eventually through income from our proprietary software licencing. Our appeal to donors comes with demonstrable evidence of our impact over the past 8 years and a clear call for action from the wider community in the fight against online hate and extremism.

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This article is an extract based on OHPI’s Annual Report for the 2016 Financial Year. Return to the Report.