On 27 April 2010, the Australian Human Rights Commission and Internet Industry Association hosted a one day Summit to start a conversation about the issue of cyber-racism and to work together to develop effective solutions.
More than 50 people from a wide range of groups in our society attended the day. The groups included representatives from federal government agencies, internet service providers, social networking companies, NGOs, academics, social changers and young people.
This cross-sector event marks an important milestone in co-operation on an area of mutual concern to government, industry and the community. Everyone in the room benefited from a better understanding of the nature and extent of the problem, and contributed information, expertise, experiences and ideas about how these issues are currently being handled. It is clear that together we will be able to achieve meaningful progress in addressing the important issue of racism on the Internet.
Nine themes emerged during the Summit:
- While all recognise the positive power of the Internet, it is clear that it can be used inappropriately to convey racist messages which can do harm. This is an important human rights issue and community issue.
- While cyber-safety is now on the radar of a wide range of groups in our community – including the groups that participated in the Summit – cyber-racism has gathered less attention. The challenge is to both incorporate cyber-racism within cyber-safety strategies and develop new initiatives focussing on cyber-racism itself.
- There is a need to better recognise, showcase and share the strategies and initiatives which are already working and find ways to adapt and grow them.
- Any strategy to address cyber-racism should include a wide range of measures to reach and empower different categories of people involved in cyber-racism (including instigators of racism, participants in racist online groups, observers to those webpages and people harmed by the racism).
- Traditional regulatory responses alone will not solve the issue of cyber-racism - the problem is too big and fast moving for regulation to be effective.
- One of the most powerful ways to start addressing cyber-racism is to harness the positive potential of the Internet, social media and social marketing to educate the community about racism and empower them to participate in positive social change.
- Any strategy to address cyber-racism needs to focus on young people - the biggest users of Internet tools. Within that strategy there is a need to find ways to empower young people to create their own solutions.
- There is a need for better communication and co-operation amongst all the parties who engage in this space – including amongst those groups who participated in the Summit.
- There are gaps in the research around cyber-racism, and most definitely gaps in understanding about the issue of cyber-racism.
An initial action will be the publication of a summary of safety tools and options available to users of the most popular social media sites, which is currently being compiled by the Internet Industry Association. This summary information will complement and reinforce the safety features popular social media sites have in place. The information is due to be launched in June 2010.
The Australian Human Rights Commission and the Internet Industry Association are committed to working with each other, and with others who are engaged and interested in the cyber-safety and cyber-racism space, to make sure that the dialogue that started during the Summit continues and that the next steps are developed in a collaborative manner.
30 April 2010