Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) more people are spending more time online than ever before. This has resulted in an increased level of harm from online hate and fake news. This page gives a snapshot of the problem and links to the work the Online Hate Prevention Institute is doing on it and the information we are gathering.
The following articles document some of the data we have collected related to racism and xenophobia which is directly related to COVID-19. The articles also cover misinformation and vilification.
We will continue adding to this list as our resources allow. You can support our work with a donation (donations over $2 are tax deductible for Australian tax payers).
- The COVID-19 pandemic has created a sense of anxiety throughout the Australian community. Freedoms have been taken away, resulting in questions raised over legal rights and the enforcement of relevant laws.
- Some individuals have taken to social media to inform the public on matters of law and citizen’s rights. Yet the information they are spreading is not always accurate and their legal backgrounds highly questionable.
- In light of COVID-19 and all the restrictions and policies put in place by both the Australian federal and state governments, various Facebook pages have been set up to show dissatisfaction and disapproval in how the government is handling the situation.
- The current pandemic has generated some unacceptable online comments & images of hate towards government leaders, specifically targeting and vilifying them.
- As news of COVID-19 broke, there was a high level of concern expressed by Jewish organisations around the world that antisemitism would likely spike as a result.
- OHPI has published a briefing which looks at antisemitism in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The briefing is published as part of the June campaign to tackle Antisemitism.
- The Black Lives Matter protests in Australia sought to show solidarity with the US movement, raise awareness about Indigenous deaths in custody in Australia and promote Indigenous rights more generally.
- The large rallies have raised concerns that they may cause a spread of COVID-19.
- We look at the Royal Commission into Indigenous Deaths in Custody, the latest statistics and analysis, and the differences between the issues in Australia and the United States.
- Far right Islamophobic pages have turned their attention to targeting mosques in the wake of the recent COVID 19 pandemic.
- There has been a deliberate attempt by far right newspapers and other pages to single out information and use this to spread fear and hate. The pages are shifting towards targeting mosques and pushing an agenda that Muslims are not law abiding citizens
- University of Queensland student Drew Pavlou has been campaigning against China, but some of his tactics have amounted to online abuse of others. He is facing a disciplinary hearing.
- This guest opinion article by Dr Gerald Roche outlines how “Universities must protect academic freedom, but to do so, they also need to protect their people from attacks and abuse. Attacking ideas is fine, attacking people is not.”
- This opinion article from our CEO, Dr Andre Oboler, looks at the online racism problem now and its impact as we move into the recovery phase from COVID-19.
- The rise of abhorrent attacks against Asian Australians is ever increasing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic . The vilification and blaming of the Chinese people has led to race-motivated violence and abuse of Asians all around Australia.
- The latest briefing looks at how discrimination against the Chinese community was elevated by the very names given to the virus through media headlines.
- Our latest briefing looks at 2 Facebook pages that promote Islamophobia as their core objective. The Facebook pages have used the pandemic to take their vilification of Muslims one step further.
- In addition, the pages are now also targeting the Chinese community in relation to COVID-19
- The Coronavirus pandemic is being utilized by hate-mongers to further Sinophobic attitudes in Australia, thus creating and furthering negative attitudes toward Chinese people and Asians in general.
- Chinese people have become a scapegoat for racial anxiety, economic concerns, and a pervasive fear during the Covid-19 pandemic. The briefing looks at how these Sinophobic attitudes are being fueled.
- Australians Against Sharia 2 encourages Islamophobic and xenophobic behaviour from their followers through their selective posting of news stories regarding radicalised Muslims, terrorism, and as of recently, China.
- The Coronavirus has provided the opportunity for this group to turn their attention to racism toward Chinese and Asian Australians.
- We look at the rise in conspiracy theories surrounding the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 and how a small kernel of truth can be blown out of proportion.
- This briefing looks at one of the widely repeated conspiracies that implies the Obamas were responsible for spreading the virus.
- A post to our page promoted Holocaust denial, we example this post.
- The user who posted is had a profile page filled with Coronavirus related conspiracy theories, we examine a selection of them.
- A recent incident, which was captured on video and went viral online, created a large number of xenophobic and Islamophobic reactions. The incident involved an Australian Muslim woman.
- The briefing looks at a series online hateful responses that unfairly targeted all Muslims as capable of the same behavior.
- This article looks at examples of anti-Asian and anti-Chinese content related to COVID-19.
- It also looks at conspiracy theories suggesting the virus is a manmade bio-weapon and the use of fiction in film and television to support this idea.
- This article looks at an account on Twitter which is engaged in systematic trolling. Recently the trolling includes anti-Asian and anti-Chinese content related to COVID-19.
- The article also looks at the homophobia, misogyny, vilification of atheists, promotion of white supremacy and antisemitism of the account.
- This article looks at a single Twitter account which is a few months old and very prolific despite having few followers.
- The account promotes Xenophobia against Asians and international students in light of COVID-19 as well as Islamophobia.
- This articles looks at the way differences in culture are used to “other” both China and the Chinese diaspora
- It also looks at animal cruelty in China, and the way materials from legitimate campaigns on this issue are being re-purposed to spread racism and hate
- This article looks at fake news claiming there were bus tours organised to strip shops in rural and remote locations, which was not true.
- It also looks at fake news saying people should call their states emergency numbers to book free home visits by doctors. This was also fake news, but the numbers given were real and are for doctors to use to report confirmed cases. A flood of calls from members of the public to these numbers due to this fake news negatively impacted the health system putting lives at risk.
OHPI Facebook Posts – News Articles
A note on the online impact of Coronavirus
We are absolutely stretched at this time, we know households are under financial pressure around the world and unemployment is rising sharply. We are reaching out to Government and encourage anyone in a position, to help support the work we are doing at this time: donations can be made here. Any companies wishing to sponsor this work are also welcome to contact us. The factors currently in play include:
- There are new Coronavirus specific problems:
- Online hate which seeks to blame particular communities or people of particular backgrounds for the Coronavirus
- A spread of fake news (sometimes intentionally) which:
- Increases hate and fear
- Undermining public health messages
- Spreads fake advice which puts people’s health at risk
- There is also a rise in general hate:
- More people being online for longer increases the general volume of hate speech (in absolute terms) which is generated (meaning there is more to respond to)
- Company moderation efforts are negatively impacted due to social distancing requirements (meaning they are slower than usual)
- People’s frustration levels are higher both due to the virus and the effects of lock-down which increases the volume of malicious activity from some quarters
- An increased use of new tools has led to:
- Users who aren’t familiar with their tools and are not using security features – something that seems like an added burden (and a bridge too far) when they are struggling just to get things working
- Widespread use of tools whose security is not up to best practice – such tools were seldom targeted before there wasn’t enough use of them to make it worth while – that has changed
- People actively looking for new ways to troll or prank people using these new communications mediums. Some of it is intended for fun, some of it is deliberately malicious.
- There is a breakdown in law and order. Governments have never been particularly effective in tackling or supporting work that tackles online hate.
- In general the response to online hate by governments has been poor, Germany being a notable exception.
- There is a sense by many that actions which would be unacceptable in the real world are unlikely to be caught or prosecuted if carried out online.
- With everything now online, this can only lead to a rise in anti-social behaviour at best, and potentially a more serious breakdown of law and order.
Getting Accurate Information
It is important in a crisis to rely on information that comes from a source of authority. For accurate information on Coronavirus see:
- World Health Organisation on Coronavirus
- Australian Government Gateway (now focused on Coronavirus)
- State Government Resources
- Victorian Government Response to COVID-19
- NSW Government Response to COVID-19
- Queensland Government Response to COVID-19
- Western Australia Government Response to COVID-19
- South Australian Government Response to COVID-19
- Tasmanian Government Response to COVID-19
- Northern Territory Government Response to COVID-19
- Australian Capital Territory Response to COVID-19