One of the problem with social media is that it lacks context. In a recent briefing we discussed the problem of racist trolls who go out of their way to hate against those working to tackling online hate. The briefing was limited to examining a few recent comments on our own Facebook page and the people who posted them.

One of the comments posted in reply reads “What a waster of time and money.” Having just posted a summary of our Annual Report, after being involved in our AGM earlier in the day, then a bunch of paperwork for the various regulators to update them after the AGM… that comment really got me thinking. Particularly given the briefing they were commenting on itself took about 6 hours of my weekend to put together.

Opposing hate, particularly through the structure of a registered charity, certainly does take a lot of time and effort. For the last two years I have acted as CEO in a voluntary capacity, putting in the time on top of my day job and my commitment to a range of other professional and community organisations.  A times, like after the Bourke Street attack in 2017, that meant putting life on hold and working 24 hours straight to stay on top of the breaking news, keeping our supporters updated and capturing data before it vanished. 

I know we’re efficient with our money. Last year our total expenditure was under $28,000. We try to be efficient with out time. That’s why be ban trolls rather than wasting volunteer time or money paying for staff to argue with them. As I just posted in reply to someone:

One approach to tackling hate is to engage in lively debate with every troll who comes along. For those who have the energy to do that, and who have their Facebook accounts secured tightly enough to prevent the trolls launching attacks on them and their family… we wish them luck with that approach. 

Our approach is to reduce the impact of hate by monitoring online hate, publishing content that exposes and refutes the arguments of hate, and making recommendations to reduce both the level of online hate and the impact it had. Our recommendations have seen changes to both the polices and the core software of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. We believe this has a far greater impact than any amount of arguing with trolls one on one.

This was part of an explanation about our policy of banning trolled based not only on what they post on our page, but also banning people who see can see like a range of hate pages. We don’t need to spend our limited time and resources arguing them. 

Which bring us full circle to the person who declared we were a “waster of time and money.” Their profile picture is of a stuffed animal. Their cover photo is of Australian flags. Here’s some of the pages they like:

And there went a few more hours. So perhaps they have a point? On the other hand, at least we now have a little context behind this person’s declaration that our work is a “waster of time and money”. Coming from someone who supports these group, discourage people from supporting us or donating to us so we can continue our work… is no doubt something they consider a great use of their time.

Perhaps we should just ban such people without explaining why and documenting where they are coming from and why they are not welcome on our page?  It would certainly be more efficient, so really… they do have a point after all. On the other hand, writing this briefing gives greater transparency, gets us looking at a range of pages and what they are posting, and helps improve our understanding of the hate that s being spread on social media. 

Let us know what you think in this Facebook thread. Unless you are the original poster, in which case you can’t because you’re banned.