Anti-Asian Hate on Facebook

This is the second briefing in a new project documenting anti-Asian hate on Facebook and Instagram. This project is being conducted in partnership with Meta’s Australian office and the Race Discrimination Team at the Australian Human Rights Commission. In this briefing we examine some of the different types of Australian anti-Asian hate observed on Facebook.

Please see our first briefing for details on the categories we use to classify this hate, how we determine it is Australian content, our tool for public reporting of such hate, the consultation with Asian-Asian community groups, and ways to get involved including through donations.

Overview of Hate on Facebook

Facebook’s policies prohibit hate speech. As Facebook explains, “We believe that people use their voice and connect more freely when they don’t feel attacked on the basis of who they are. That is why we don’t allow hate speech on Facebook. It creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion, and in some cases may promote offline violence.”

Facebook defines hate speech as violent or dehumanising speech, harmful stereotypes, statements of inferiority, expressions of contempt, disgust or dismissal, cursing, or calls for exclusion or segregation, which target particular people / groups of people (rather than concepts or institutions) based on protected characteristics such as race, ethnicity, or national origin. Anti-Asian hate, whether directed against all Asian, or people from a particular country in Asia, would fall within this policy. Criticism of a country, or a government, usually would not be hate speech, unless it is making a stereotype about the people of that country (or either a heritage from that country).

Our analysis shows that hate speech on Facebook can occur on pages or profiles which have been created for the dedicated purpose of spreading hate; in occasional posts made by users or pages not overtly dedicated to hate; and in comments made to the posts created by other people or pages. 

We found numerous examples of anti-Asian hate in the comments posted on Facebook, but far less evidence of dedicated anti-Asian pages and groups. This suggests Facebook’s moderation is fairly effective when it comes to removing posts and taking action against those who repeatedly violate the community standards with their posts, but is far less effective when it comes to hate made through comments. This observation will be further tested as we gather more data (including through public reporting) and consult with the impacted communities.

Examples of anti-Asian hate on Facebook

So far we have over 180 items of Australian based anti-Asian hate from across Facebook and Instagram. The examples we share here are drawn from this pool. These examples and where they were found were shared with Facebook. Anonymous versions of the content (as presented here) were also shared with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Demonising Asians

This example demonises Asians as “germ spreading tyrants”. The comment appears on the Sky News Australia page in response to a video about a natural disaster involving severe flooding in parts of central China. The comment has been removed.

Promoting racism

This example both advocates the reintroduction of the White Australia Policy, a racism policy from Australia’s past, and proposes discrimination on the basis of nationality against all Chinese people. It particularly targets students from China wanting to study in Australia. It appears as a comment to a post on the page for the controversial former Senator Fraser Anning. The post this comment appeared under (a post that incited such responses) has been removed.

Attacking culture

This example attacks Chinese people for their culture by focusing on differences in diet. It comes in response to a post by a political candidate from One Nation. The post was about dogs in China being saved from slaughter for a “dog meat festival”. The reference to insects and particularly to rats seems designed to highlight cultural differences in a negative way and promote anti-Chinese sentiment. We note that in addition to China, according to the BBC, rats have been part of the diet in north-east India, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Ghana, Vietnam, and parts of the Philippines and Indonesia. It may seem strange to people from other cultures, but using that cultural difference in this way is feeding xenophobia.

This comment is still online. Other comments in this thread say “They are the animals (MAYBE THAT’S TOO KIND)!!!”, “They should eat themselves”, and “Remember that China restaurant in <redacted name of an Australian suburb>? There where cat and dog frames found out the back in the bins. They eat anything, maybe they should eat themselves.” The post and the comments it inspired should be removed. We are concerned that similar content stirring up racism may emerge during the 2022 Federal Election campaign. If you see such content, please report it.

Demonisation and classic racism

This example refers to the Chinese as both Nazis and “inferior people” and laughs at a disaster in China while sharing a video from a media organisation. This post has been removed.

Asian Australians subject to other forms of hate – transphobia

This example targets Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, a Doctor who was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her service to the community as a medical practitioner. Dr Soo, a transgender woman, handed back her OAM in protest over a decision to promote a member of the order with openly anti-LGBTQ+ views.

The first comment tells her to go back to “her mainland”, a reference to mainland China. Dr Soo was in fact born in Malaysia, she completed her medical training in the UK, and moved to Australia over 30 years ago. This is the “go back where you come from” type of racism that targets people with an ethnic appearance – regardless of where they are actually from.  The first few words, “This He or She” is an example of transphobia.

The next comment agreed, then attacked Dr Soo with even stronger transphobia. It highlights how Asian Australians, just like everyone else, have many aspects to their identity and can often face other forms of abuse as well. 

These comments appeared in response to a post on the Andrew Bolt Supporters Page, a right wing page that at time crosses the line into breaches of Facebook’s polices. The page celebrates this with a profile picture claiming it is a “Facebook Prison Veteran” and celebrating the bans of increasing severity that have been applied to it for multiple breaches. A page that won’t learn from past bans, instead celebrates them, will eventually be closed for good.

COVID, anti-Chinese hate, and the far-right

This final set of examples highlight the anti-Asian activities of the “Australian Liberty Alliance” / “Rebel News”. As many will recall, the Australian Liberty Alliance, later renamed as “Yellow Vests Australia”, ran as a far-right political party in various election. The Sydney Morning Herald described them as a “far-right fringe party advocating restrictions on mosques and Muslim migration”. 

The Facebook page titled “Australian Liberty Alliance” now describes itself as the “Australia Bureau Rebel News Network”, a Canadian registered organisation which is described by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network as a “far-right organization”. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has previously highlighted how Rebel News received over $100 from the terrorist responsible for the Christchurch attack as part of what the Royal Commission into the attack described as his donations to “far-right, anti-immigration groups.” They have called for a “societal conversation as to the relationship between the consumption of far-right, anti-Muslim media sources and acts of terrorism”.

The page posted an article claiming that China is “downplaying” the first case of a human contracting H10N3 bird flu and that China’s “National Health Commission claims poses little risk of large-scale spread.” This seeks to stir up existing concern based on COVID and distrust of China among its audience. In contrast, Reuters reported that N10N3 is “a rare strain of bird flu” and reported as fact that, “there is no indication that H10N3 can spread easily in humans.”  

Comments on the post include one person claiming the only thing to come out of China is disease, and another attacking Chinese culture saying they are “eating everything that moved” and “god help the world” suggesting this is the cause of the virus spreading to humans – reinforcing a general theme in COVID related anti-Chinese hate speech.

Feedback and support

You can provide feedback on this briefing by commenting on this Facebook post or this LinkedIn post.

You can help us by sharing this post on social media and directly with individuals and community groups, particularly those within the Asian-Australian community. You can also make a donation to support additional work on anti-Asian racism, and share data with us by reporting online anti-Asian hate.

We have a lot more work in the pipeline, to stay informed join our mailing list, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.