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Wake Up Call For Politicians And Policymakers – Release Of The Digital Violence Report 2021 By Dept Of Internal Affairs

The release of the Digital Violent Extremism Transparency Report 2021, is a major wake-up call for our machinery of government, policymakers and politicians from all parties. Firstly, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) needs to be congratulated for this insightful report produced within such an impressive turnaround time. The Report adds considerable value in keeping our country safe and preventing future March 15 type events.

The need value of such a Report is that for the first time we have baseline information from a Government source to gauge on-line extremism. This baseline will enable us to track changes in subsequent years and this is a very much needed tool.

The use value is that it will directly contribute to the change process with a number of policy and legislative reviews underway arising out of the Royal Commission Recommendations. These include the Content Classification Review by the DIA, The National Security Strategy, the Counter Violent Extremism framework development by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), the public education on Indicators of Violent Extremism by the NZSIS, the Hate Speech legislation by the Ministry of Justice and many others.

For the Muslim community the trend noted in this Report was exactly what we have been telling the Government agencies since 2017 and earlier but they were not listening. Even by 2019, the Global Terrorism Index noted a 320% increase in right wing extremism over the previous 5 years, but our security agencies were mostly asleep. Now we have a NZ Government agency confirming this sharp upward swing using the violent extremist objectionable material metrics. They found 255 identity and politically motivated URLs with objectionable material, compared to only 2 that were considered faith motivated. We hope this is a major wakeup call for our policy makers, particular those in the security space.

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We are requesting our politicians to be mature enough to make this Report a matter of well-being and safety and not an opportunity to introduce unrelated issues for politicking purposes. The Government should honour its own Cabinet paper which states that hate speech changes would “better protect” tangatawhenua, the rainbow community, the disabled and also faith based communities. We know legislation alone won’t solve racism and violent extremism, so we acknowledge and applaud the Government’s initiatives in such areas as the new histories curriculum, the major social cohesion engagement programme, the drive to reduce digital harm and the various legislation and reform programmes mentioned earlier. All these are heading in the right direction and the only issue now is that in some areas we require these changes to happen at Dame Lisa Carrington speed.

For politicians, especially those who are keen to divert the issue of hate speech to other electioneering based agendas, this should also be a major wake-up call. We all know that hate speech is directly linked to hate crime. The Royal Commission noted as much in its findings. With the significant rise of violent extremism mediated through digital platforms, the matter becomes even more serious. The Minister of Justice needs to give a definitive timeframe for the legislation and not renege on the promise made by the Prime Minister that she accepts all the Royal Commission Recommendations in principle. We trust that this principle extends to addressing the rapid rise of hate-motivated right wing extremism in Aotearoa NZ.

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