Cyber Racism, Cyber Bullying, and Cyber Safety

Cyber Racism, Cyber Bullying, and Cyber Safety

Conversation at the AHRC Cyber-Racism Summit 2010

27 April 2010


Development of social media technology enables cyber racism to move from from “fake truth” sites (Adelaide Institute Holocaust Denial , Black History etc), to social movement/ cyber bulling (Stormfront, YouTube, faceBook), or even to overt acts of real world violence. It has expanded dramatically, as Jessie notes on her blog about US cyber racism.

While cyber-bullying can be “harassment”, it can be difficult to prove and hard to pursue in Australia.

General hate speech where it is not about mobilizing for violence, cannot easily be stopped. Eg Jones vs Toben on Holocaust denial, required private action, prosecution, civil judgement – similar material is still around everywhere.  How can we be “safe” from racism? Better question, how can we be prepared and resourced to resist it? racist attitudes are widespread on the Internet, and very easy to discover, as in OnlineOpinion.

Cyber bullying is defined as use of e-techs to harm someone : intimidate, control, manipulate, put down, humiliate. Becomes e-crime when it enters realm of offences under law — sexting becomes child porn; impersonation becomes unlawful operation; intimidation becomes blackmail/extortion; harassment becomes vilification  (S.A. Cyber bullying, e-crime and the protection of children and young people).

Cybersmart has two mentions of “racist” as part of what is an inappropriate site. No links to any anti-racism material, no discussion of how to detect if a site is racist, no links to strategies for dealing with racist material.  As on broadcast racism, ACMA is worse than useless.

Unlike Canada, in Australia there is no national anti-racism strategy, no human rights charter, no resource commitment. Law enforcement cyber concerns are focused on terrorism, not on enabling anti-racist work to be supported.

Most cyber-bullying training for young people emphasizes:

  1. awareness
  2. filtering software
  3. safe place
  4. parental care.

But racism is widespread in Australian society, and it is generally perceived that a certain level of racism is acceptable or even “natural” (see research by Kevin Dunn).

Unfortunate that the Race Discrimination Commissioner has pre-empted the strategy debate in relation to cyber racism by his public statements (eg in The Sunday Age).

Tide mark of  acceptable racism is rising (eg mooted closure of Race Discrimination Unit at AHRC) , and intensifying inter-group hostility. There is widespread evidence albeit circumstantial, though the latest Social Inclusion Board report indicates that it accepts that racism is widespread and has very exclusionary social impacts.

No national leadership on anti-racism- no governmental product champion, and racism and cultural diversity equity seem to be traded down for seemingly more important and perhaps less socially difficult issues; indeed some say that blocking of asylum seekers gives clear signal that official racism is firmly entrenched with Prime Ministerial imprimatur. Similar implications of the denial of racism Indian students affair even after revelations about Victorian police racism, the NT Intervention, and lately the Alice Springs 5 “racist” manslaughter verdict.


# need to end denial as default setting for government, eg Human Rights Framework April 2010 has NO mention of racism, and racism is NOT seen as an initiative on which the government will act;

#need for withdrawal of Australian reservations re ICEAFRD on criminal sanctions on racial vilification;

#need for AHRC to be given powers and resources  to take pro-active prosecutions for racial vilification;

#need for national government-civil society- industry alliance to tackle racism in new and old media.


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