New report calls for government action to address harassment online
A comprehensive new report from ActionStation launched Monday examines the harm that unmoderated and under-regulated online platforms are causing New Zealanders.
The report, comprising of new research, individual experiences, and expert opinions highlights a damaging side of the internet, and makes the case for more scrutiny of the role tech giants play in our society.
Report findings include:
• One in three Māori (32%), and one in five Asian (22%) and Pacific (21%) people in New Zealand experience racial abuse and harassment online (New research from UMR);
• Analysis of comments sections during ‘Te Wiki o te reo Māori’ shows Facebook and Stuff are allowing racism to flourish on their platforms;
• YouTube hosts and promotes conspiracy theories on Maori history, which have hundreds of thousands of views;
• There are serious gaps in the Harmful Digital Communications Act;
• Solutions could lie in indigenous thinking and values.
ActionStation are calling for government action to address gaps in current legislation. The report includes recommendations and a petition calling for the government to:
1. Remove: Ensure platforms are active in removing harmful content quickly. An investigation into the most effective method to do this would be required, but the responsibility should be placed on the platform, not the users.
2. Reduce: Limit the reach of harmful content. Neither the platforms nor the users who create hateful and harmful content should benefit from algorithms that promote divisive and polarising messages.
3. Review: The New Zealand government needs to review our hate speech laws, the Harmful Digital Communications Act, the Domestic Violence Act, the Harassment Act and the Human Rights Act to ensure they are fit for purpose in protecting people online in the 21st century.
4. Recalibrate: One of the most significant themes to emerge in this research was the need to attend not just to individualised concerns (e.g. individual rights and privacy) but also to collective dynamics and wellbeing. Any policies that are developed to protect people online need to have indigenous and collectivist thinking at their centre.
“Social media companies have done a great job of connecting whānau and friends around the world. But they also provide a powerful and relatively cheap way for groups and individuals to spread hate, fear, abuse and misinformation across time and space, and without transparency.” says ActionStation Director and report author Laura O’Connell Rapira.
“The spread of disinformation and the damaging impact on democracies overseas is well established. What our research starts to show is that online misinformation, particularly around Māori and New Zealand history, is rife and causing harm here too.”
The report includes insights from 69 people who detailed their experiences with online hate and harassment, expert opinion from Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley about the need to review and improve our hate speech laws, and a detailed account of the online abuse faced by Lani Wendt Young for her work as a writer and journalist.
The foreword is written by esteemed economist Shamubeel Eaqub who says, “Being online is a misnomer. It’s like walking on footpaths and driving on roads - part of everyday life. Yet we seem to treat online as a separate space rather than an extension of everyday life.”
“The solution is not just for people to log off or put their phone down. Many of us rely on the internet for connection, employment and information. The solution is government regulation.” says O’Connell Rapira.
The full report is available to read at www.peopleharassmentreport.com
The full results of the UMR research is available here.