The following is a summary of activities discussed in the OHPI Directors Report for 2020. It reflects work undertaken between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020. The report itself contains further details on each section, which may be seen if you click for more information within each of the sections below.
The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) 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 and have a well-documented track record in dealing with online hate and countering online extremism.
This past year we undertook significant work tackling terrorism / violent extremism. This included securing the removal of terrorist manifestos and videos taken by terrorists of their attacks. Our major report into the Halle attack explains a key emerging threat and providers recommendations for a range of stakeholders to better meet the challenge. We thank the European Commission for providing a foreword to this important report.
We also presented to a meeting of the major banks on countering terrorist financing, and to the Victorian Parliament where we disclosed how tax payer money has been paid to those hosting extremist manifestos.
A significant part of our work during the year involved monitoring, reporting and tackling rising hate as a result of COVID. A dedicated COVID campaign focused on hate speech, fake news and conspiracy theories related to the pandemic produced a regular stream of content based on our online monitoring. We also produced a submission for the Victorian Parliament focused on COVID based online hate, presented to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance on COVID related antisemitism, participated in a global webinar for the IEEE Computer Society with Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner.
During the year we implemented a new campaign strategy in which we focused on a particular theme for each month of 2020. The campaigns each had a fixed level of commitment, with potential for further growth if crowd funding targets were met.
Tackling Hate Speech Program
A joint initiative between OHPI and the Council for Christians and Jews (Victoria), the tackling hate speech program provides training on recognising and tacking action online hate. It was financially supported through a grant from the Victorian Government. The program provided both public education and “train the trainer” sessions for facilitators. Optional quarterly update sessions looked in depth at the latest trends and developments in online hate.
The training covered different types of racism and religious vilification, including antisemitism, anti-Christian religious vilification, racism against Indigenous Australians, racism against African migrants, Islamophobia and violent extremism. Training day participants were also given information on relevant Australian and Victorian laws.
The initiative was praised by the Victorian Premier, The Hon Daniel Andrews MP who wrote in a message shared with participants, “On behalf of our Government and our state, thank you for your efforts in building that better, stronger and fairer future”.
Online Monitoring Tools
The Fight Against Hate monitoring software and its related CSI-CHAT analysis tool have been designed to work together in providing empirical data for analysis & reporting. The Fight Against Hate software has been under development since 2011. It provides shadow reporting and independent data which can be utilised in formal reports to both government organisations and social media platforms.
The latest work was completed in late 2019 and introduced the “review” feature from the original software to the new version. The “review” capacity is a key feature of the system’s quality control and anti-abuse measures. While CSI CHAT is still a prototype, Fight Against Hate version 2 is now operational and a version has been configured for use in Italian, along with Italian partners, as part of the project undertaken for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
Research and Publications
During the financial year we published a total of 50 reports / briefings about online hate and extremism. This was an 85% increase in output compared to the previous year. This was the result of a dramatic increase in demand due to COVID combined with an plan to increase output as part of the new campaigns. Our content reached 450,000 people through Facebook, with almost 22,000 people visiting our website to engage with the material in more depth.
We participated in a range of online conferences and forums, provided guest talks to many organisations, and met with many key stakeholders.
Some highlights not already mentioned in this report include:
- Attended the Swarm Conference (Sydney) and appeared on a panel discussing “platform governance and internet regulation”
- Briefed the Federal Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Hon. Paul Fletcher MP, on the work of the Online Hate Prevention Institute.
- Attended the European Commission in Brussels for a symposium on online antisemitism organised by Oxford University.
- Participated as part of Australia’s delegation at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance at the IHRA plenary in Luxembourg.
- Gave an online presentation to students at Western University in Canada as part of their Holocaust Education Week activities
- Presented evidence to the Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into anti-vilification
There were a total of 31 media engagements during the reporting period, with statements, comments and interviews with our Managing Director. These have include media organisations of: SBS World New, J-Wire, 10 Daily, ABC News, Audiatur Online, Daily Dot, Buzzfeed News, Medium, South China Morning Post and The Australian.