When one explores the internet, it is very common to come across forms of hate which are directed towards those with disabilities. Disabilities such as: down syndrome, autism, blindness, deafness etc.

According to a national survey, more than 56 per cent of individuals with disabilities experience bullying and forms of hate over a 12-month period at school. This is only the percentage for bullying found in schools. The internet, on the other hand, provides a dedicated platform for countless acts of bullying. The percentage of hate targeting those with disabilities on the internet can be difficult to find. Nevertheless, it is evident that it far exceeds the percentage of that found in schools. As an aim of this report, we ask that Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms play their part in identifying and instantly eradicating any kind of hate targeting those with disabilities that appear on their sites. This will help to decrease the amount of hate found online which is directed at individuals who are disabled, as this type of cyberbullying can be detrimental to these individuals.

Early in 2020, there was a viral video of an Indigenous Australian boy with dwarfism who was crying about being bullied in school and kept claiming that he wanted to kill himself. The mother of the 9 year-old shared the video in the hope that others could help the child. It was also hoped that the video would prompt changes to the education system and put a stop to bullying, especially were it involved hate directed at individuals with disabilities. The video went viral, not only around Australia but the whole world. Celebrities such as Hugh Jackman posted videos online to show support to the 9 year-old, while others set up and donated to a gofundme account for the boy. Enough money was raised to send the boy, Quadan Bayles, to Disneyland. However, Quadan and his family took down the offer after the appearance of conspiracy theories on the internet, claiming that Quadan was actually a 18 year old actor who was pretending to be a 9 year-old so that he could scam people into giving him money.

Bullying towards Quadan spread beyond the school as hate messages appeared on the internet. Comments on the internet began to make various claims against the boy, that he was an anti-white racist and was actually a real bully himself at the school.

The internet can be a very cruel place, where the many social media platforms can be used to create and spread hate targeting disabilities. The following are various examples from both Twitter and Facebook showing different forms of hate that target dwarfism, including hate directed at Quadan Bayles.

Hate Targeting Dwarfism

The following are a few examples of hate targeting dwarfism that were found on facebook. The majority are in the form of posts on meme accounts. Memes are images, videos, pieces of text etc. which are humorous and are spread around the internet by users. However, as seen in the following examples, these meme pages manage to stray from posting humorous memes to posting images which display hate towards certain individuals, in this case, those with dwarfism.

EXAMPLE 1

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This photo was posted on a meme page called Hilarious Memes (id: 437414849628685) which was created on October 9 2012 and has 724 followers. The post, which has received 37 reacts, including likes and laughing reacts, 37 comments and 69 shares, is about two individuals who seem to be arguing, with one grabbing the neck of the shirt of the other man, ready to engage in a fight. The photo tries to appeal to humour by targeting the dwarfism of the two individuals and stating that it will be a ‘short’ fight, referring to their height. Moreso, the owner of the page has captioned the photo ‘midget fight’, which is a disrespectful term used to describe the height of those with dwarfism.

EXAMPLE 2

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The first thing to denote when looking at this image is the page the photo was derived from. The name of this page is ‘Midget God Memes’ (id: 538135959876495). The name alone displays hate targeting dwarfism by including the derogatory term ‘midget’ which is a form of hate speech usually directed towards those with dwarfism. Secondly, the photo posted is trying to appeal to humour by asking the question “if a midget smokes weed will he be high or medium?”. It is well known, that when an individual smokes Marijuana they go into an induced state where they are described as being ‘high’. This meme, targeting individuals suffering from dwarfism, is asking, that despite their shorter appearance, can an individual with dwarfism reach a Marijuana ‘high’ or will they reach a ‘medium’ state, which is in between short and high? Yet again, the derogatory term ‘midget’ is used and generates hate towards the disability.

EXAMPLE 3

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‘Memes, Memes, And More Memes’ (id: 871843556346828) is another meme page to post a photo regarding hate targeting dwarfism. Similar to the previous posts, this image appeals to humour by ridiculing the height of those with dwarfism and includes of the popularly derogatory term ‘midget’. Behind the text, there is a man who has dwarfism. He is wearing nothing but a nappy and sombrero and is holding a baby bottle in his hand. This image can be seen as an attempt at comparing those with dwarfism to being adult baby’s.

EXAMPLE 4

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Another meme page which has included a photo with an element of hate towards dwarfism is called ‘Every Spongebob M E M E In No Order’ (id: 102464431146990). It posted a character from the kids TV show ‘SpongeBob’ and has designed its Facebook reactions with images & captions. The whole idea is for followers to choose a reaction-option from those provided. In this case, the shocked-face reaction states that the character is looking at “3 midgets in a tank”. By using the derogatory term ‘midget’, the post has been turned into one displaying hate towards dwarfism. In the comments section, a Facebook user has stated that the term midget is a hateful word, and that her son who suffers from dwarfism should not have to grow up thinking he is a joke due to being labelled a midget by such pages. Another user has replied to her comment by saying “first time on the internet I see”, indicating that the internet is a place full of such hate towards those with disabilities and other forms of hate. Furthermore, another user has replied to the comment with a youtube link of a song about ‘short people’, yet again referring to those with dwarfism.

EXAMPLE 5

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With 1447 followers, the page ‘People are Pansies – a new start’ (id: 866747530041678) has posted this photo of two men with dwarfism. The title says ‘They look like they bout to go rob kids foot locker’. Specifically using the term ‘kids footlocker’ shows how those with dwarfism are compared to little kids rather than adults. In this image we see that the two individuals in the photo are young adults. However, because of their height, as a result of dwarfism, they are considered children rather than being seen as the young adults they are. The owner of the page further adds to this hate targeting dwarfism by captioning the image with “…. does anyone else find midget memes as funny as I do?”. His inclusion of the disrespectful term ‘midget’ shows that they have posted this photo as a means of targeting those with dwarfism.

EXAMPLE 6

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This meme is an attempt at making humour out of the height of those with dwarfism simply by stating that an ipad is the size of a plasma TV for those with the disability. Yet again, with the addition of the word ‘midget’ this post is credited as showing hate targeting dwarfism.

Hate targeting Quadan Bayles

At the start of the year there was a popular case of hate targeting dwarfism which was circulating around Australia and then eventually had the attention of the whole world. This is the case of Quadan Bayles. The following are examples of the hate Quadan received from both Facebook and Twitter users. This relates to a belief that others regarded his situation to be fraudulent. While has was claiming to be a 9 year-old that suffered from dwarfism and was being bullied at school, others on the internet believed that he was actually 18 years old, quite wealthy and popular.

EXAMPLE 1

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This is a tweet by an individual on Twitter regarding the conspiracy that Quadan Bayles scammed people by acting like he was a 9 year-old boy. This tweet uses derogatory terms and language when describing Quadan. This is a very strong hate targeting Quadan and his dwarfism.

EXAMPLE 2

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This image is actually a screenshot of the title of an article by the Daily Mail, ‘Bullied nine-year-old with dwarfism smiling again and standing tall’. The words ‘standing tall’ are circled in red and underneath there is a photo of the joker stating “very poor choice of words”. This is ridiculing the terms ‘standing tall’ as it is being used to refer to someone with dwarfism. This is an attempt at targeting Quaden’s size, indicating that due to his height he simply cannot ‘stand tall’. The page that posted this photo is called Dank Marvel and DC Memes (id: 390042908196547). The publisher describes themselves as being a ‘comedian’.

EXAMPLE 3

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This photo is a re-post of a tweet from Twitter. However the account used to tweet this is a fake account of Quadan Bayles to make it seem as though Quadan really is an 18 year old who has scammed everyone. The tweet includes racist terms and makes a joke out of the label ‘disability’, by turning it into a pun which says ‘dis ability’.

EXAMPLE 4

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This facebook user has posted a photo of Quaden Bayles with what appears to be champagne, tapping glasses with the person taking the photo. The poster then captions the image “its 2020…why not have a midget scammer?”. As seen in the previous examples, the use of the term midget can be seen as hate speech as it is a derogatory and disrespectful term to use when describing an individual with dwarfism.

Analysis

The internet contains various platforms where individuals can create and share their thoughts, opinions, news, videos, memes etc. However, this also gives people the opportunity to create posts that target hate towards certain individuals and/or groups. This report displays the different ways pages and users on Facebook and Twitter spread hate towards those with the disability of dwarfism. These platforms are full of pages and accounts made specifically for posting memes and creating humor. Nevertheless, these meme pages have strayed from posting funny harmless content to images that direct hate towards those with disabilities. This can be very detrimental to certain individuals. As shown in the case of Quadan Bayles, the internet was quick to spread the 9 year-old boy’s story with the whole world and to get positive reactions and help from those around the world. However, just as quickly as one can gain support, the internet can also take back that support and replace it with hate. This showcases the toxic culture which is present online. Since the internet is incredibly large and seemingly never-ending, it will be difficult to completely eradicate all forms of online hate. However, if we can diminish this toxic culture and take the spotlight away from those who spread hate, we can take a giant leap towards a world that is kinder to those born differently to others.

Furthermore, OHPI calls on Facebook and Twitter, alongside other social media platforms, to remove pages which post memes and content that showcases hate towards those with dwarfism and other disabilities. We also ask for your help by reporting all the hateful posts in this briefing, and to report any other form of hate you may come across when exploring the internet or scrolling through your social media timelines.

Researched & Written by B. K.


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The Online Hate Prevention Institutes has a series of campaigns throughout 2020 and we are currently running a fundraiser to expand our June campaign of Tackling Antisemitism. The full plan for our campaigns in 2020 can be seen here.